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What Are Legacy Applications? Types, Challenges, and Solutions

September 26, 2023

Legacy Applications

In an era of rapidly advancing technology and ever-growing user expectations, companies must regularly upgrade obsolete systems, whether 15 or only 5 years old. 

Companies understandably want to maintain a vital operational system for as long as possible. However, clinging to outdated technology can quickly transform what was once an asset into a liability. Old systems can soon become dangerous, costly, and time-consuming. 

Companies often use archive storage solutions to store data after sunsetting legacy apps. 

Technology has also revolutionized cloud environments and architectures over the past several years, allowing business processes to build, upgrade, update, and manage applications faster through cloud migration software.

Companies continue to utilize legacy programs for a variety of reasons. The expense of updating a legacy application may be prohibitive in some instances. 

In other circumstances, the legacy program may be so tightly connected with other systems that replacing it would be difficult or impossible. Finally, some businesses may be unwilling to adapt, even if there are compelling reasons to do so.

Applications, systems, and other technologies become legacy IT systems for the following reasons:

  • They no longer get updates, support, or maintenance from the developers or producers of their programs.
  • They are no longer for sale and rely on outdated systems to operate and maintain.
  • In the case of hardware, such as mainframes, it can no longer support an organization's software.
  • IT specialists with complex, obsolete technical skill sets, such as common business-oriented language (COBOL) programming, must maintain the system. These specialists might be challenging to locate and expensive to hire.
  • Repairs take far too long in comparison to new systems.
  • Maintenance expenses grow too high to justify continuing.
  • They are too vulnerable to security risks and cannot be modified to meet contemporary cybersecurity requirements.

 A legacy program is typically associated with a specific operating system (OS) or coding language. The problem is usually running the legacy application while converting it to newer, more efficient code that uses current technologies and programming languages.

Example: An application created to run on Windows 7 may be unable to operate on Windows 10. This is despite adding middleware or glue code or the OS being generally backward compatible.

Types of legacy applications

The typical forms of legacy systems are as follows:

  • End-of-life (EOL). The vendor frequently discontinues the product when legacy systems pass their useful phase. Microsoft's lack of support for Windows 7 is one example. 
  • No updates available. While this is closely similar to EOL, it refers to systems with no upgrades or new versions. Businesses find it tough to change and develop since they must switch to a new provider and build new processes for the same operations. 
  • Inability to scale. Legacy systems no longer have the scalability to support a firm’s growth, production, and security requirements.

Legacy apps vs. modern apps

Legacy apps are designed with traditional development approaches based on monolithic architectural models. This indicates that the application's code, services, and other components are deeply interwoven, making scaling and adapting to changing contexts more difficult. 

Businesses often continue to rely on legacy applications to meet crucial business demands. However, legacy applications are frequently inefficient, unreliable, and unsuited for achieving digital transformation objectives due to their interconnected designs. 

Modern apps are developed with agile approaches, DevOps practices, modular design, and serverless operational models. These are more flexible, scalable, portable, and resilient than older applications. They enable enterprises to develop more quickly while decreasing time to market and total cost of ownership. 

Modern applications can handle millions of users on demand and run on multiple platforms, including on-premises and cloud-based environments. The contemporary application development approach eliminates much of the operational overhead associated with historical application development. Consequently, teams may concentrate on business logic while delivering higher-quality solutions.

Legacy apps vs. modern apps

Why are legacy applications still in use?

Businesses stick with legacy applications for various reasons. Some of them are discussed below.

  • They are still functional. Many legacy apps continue to function and are critical to a company's everyday operations. They might not find it necessary to constantly replace systems and technologies that are still operational only because they are obsolete.
  • Costs. Changing a legacy system or application might not be cost-effective. While retaining old technology may cost businesses more money in the long run, some organizations lack the immediate means to upgrade their systems. Upgrading can also take time since it may necessitate retraining or recruiting new employees to master and incorporate new technology.
  • Complexities and difficulties. Being able to modernize legacy applications may be a difficult task. Some businesses lack the skill set required to upgrade their systems and deal with the issues that may arise. Migrations can also cause service interruptions, data loss, and a bad end-user experience.

Examples of legacy applications

Many companies, such as banks and government agencies, rely on legacy systems. These companies depend on established, consistent, and reusable technologies that are typically complex to develop and expensive to replace. The following are some examples:

  • Orion, NASA's spacecraft. 2002-era IBM PowerPC 750X single-core processors power NASA's Orion spacecraft. Orion has been in development since 2000 and was launched for the first time in 2022.
  • Internet Explorer (IE) is a browser developed by Microsoft. In January 2020, Microsoft discontinued support for all versions of the IE previous to version 11. Support for Internet Explorer 11 ceased in June 2022. Organizations may use Microsoft Edge's IE mode to access programs and websites that still support IE.

What are the risks of using legacy systems?

Keeping old systems and applications poses various dangers, as discussed below. 

  • Maintenance costs of upkeep and operation. Because of the high costs of changing legacy systems and applications, many businesses continue to utilize them. However, sustaining outdated technology over time can be costly. Developers will not upgrade legacy systems. As a result, they require constant support from IT infrastructure and staff. These costs may eventually surpass the advantages of sustaining the status quo.
  • Performance. When a vendor's software development team no longer supports a program, an operations team may struggle to maintain the product's functioning. As they age, continuing to utilize old systems might decrease performance, increase resource usage, and cause frequent failures and crashes. Maintaining obsolete technology also limits firms from using emerging technologies, reducing their competitive edge compared to more contemporary competitors. Many legacy systems are also incompatible with modern systems, limiting usefulness for firms that use a mix of old and new technologies.

Signs that your legacy system is an obstacle to digital transformation:

  • Inaccessible data
  • System complexities
  • Maintenance and expenses
  • Less functioning flexibility and agility
  • Cybersecurity issues
  • Slowdown of innovation
  • Data silos. A data silo is a repository that cannot be integrated or shared between business units. Many legacy software systems are incompatible with modern software, which means that data saved on an older system within a corporation cannot be shared with other departments that use newer technology.
  • Compliance. Legacy systems may not meet data compliance rules such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Noncompliance with these requirements can result in fines, other penalties, bad publicity, and security breaches.
  • Technical support and security vulnerabilities. Legacy systems receive no technical assistance or upgrades from their developers and must rely on outdated security mechanisms or patches to avoid intrusions. This exposes them to data breaches.

Legacy application modernization

Legacy application modernization is the process of transforming programs developed with outdated software into new apps using cutting-edge technology. Legacy application modernization approaches like application programming interface (API) generation bridge the gap between legacy and modern systems and enhance the value of existing systems. 

Other approaches, like cloud migration, enable apps to be modified or rebuilt to operate in current runtime environments. 

Businesses strive to modernize legacy programs because they rely on obsolete technology, making it difficult to protect, enhance, and transmit critical application components. Replacing or updating old systems is necessary to manage critical business functions effectively. 

Benefits of legacy application modernization:

  • Provides a competitive advantage in the marketplace
  • Improved security and performance
  • Hands-on tackle of data silos
  • Better productivity and motivated workforce
  • Scalable opportunities

Cloud migration solutions

Digital adoption, automation, and migrating old apps to the cloud aids in the monitoring and accounting of corporate operations and procedures. Legacy application data migration boosts performance and organizational competitiveness while assuring improved job execution. This is where cloud migration software comes into play. 

Top five cloud migration software:

*Above are the five leading cloud migration software solutions from G2’s Fall 2023 Grid® Report.

Archive storage solutions

Often, enterprises must preserve their legacy data to maintain compliance with internal corporate laws and policies and applicable legal regulations and policies. They will undoubtedly need to archive both new and old data, but it must be simple to access, manage, and control. This is where archive storage solutions come into play. 

Data frequently preserved in archive storage systems aren't immediately relevant but still have value.

Top five archive storage software:

*Above are the five leading archive storage software solutions from G2’s Fall 2023 Grid® Report.

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Leaving the legacy behind

Several obstacles must be overcome while working with legacy programs in today's ever-changing technological environment. An organization's capacity to innovate and respond to shifting market needs is often hampered by its aged systems' inflexibility, scalability, and inefficiency. 

But since firms are often comfortable with their legacy system, is it time to upgrade, or should you stick with what has served you well for years?

Learn more about leaving your legacy systems behind moving to the cloud and why it's imperative.

Archive storage solutions
Discover your storage solution today

Unlock seamless data archiving practices with leading solutions.

Archive storage solutions
Discover your storage solution today

Unlock seamless data archiving practices with leading solutions.

What Are Legacy Applications? Types, Challenges, and Solutions Legacy applications are obsolete technology still in use. Learn about their types, examples, and how legacy application modernization is imperative today.
Samudyata Bhat Samudyata Bhat is a Content Marketing Specialist at G2. With a Master's degree in digital marketing, she currently specializes her content around SaaS, hybrid cloud, network management, and IT infrastructure. She aspires to connect with present-day trends through data-driven analysis and experimentation and create effective and meaningful content. In her spare time, she can be found exploring unique cafes and trying different types of coffee.

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