IT Management

Study argues against maintaining legacy systems

Cobol code

Maintaining legacy systems, such as those that run COBOL code, should be retired in favor of a software-based IT enterprise, a MeriTalk survey suggests.

Agencies would benefit much more from embracing a software-based IT enterprise than maintaining current legacy systems, according to a new study released July 22.

In June 2013, MeriTalk and VMware surveyed 152 federal IT leaders to determine what steps agencies are taking in that direction and what kind of benefits they have seen.

Agencies are spending 79 percent of their IT budget, or an average of $62 billion annually, just to maintain legacy IT systems. More than half of the IT leaders surveyed said their agencies donot have the ability to acquire new IT resources in a timely manner, and that IT workers are often consumed with routine tasks that could be automated, such as virus scanning and troubleshooting. Seventy-seven percent said their agency needs a more flexible IT framework.

According to the report, a software-defined enterprise works by "virtualizing network infrastructure, and therefore removing the dependency between networks and networking hardware." In a software-defined data center, management and control of resources (such as maintenance, testing and development) would be entirely automated by software.

Federal IT leaders said they see potential in using a software-defined enterprise. Of the 152 leaders, 81 percent said innovation is vital to their agency's future, and 66 percent believed that transitioning to a software-based enterprise would foster IT innovation within their agency.

The study found that obstacles to updating legacy systems include budget constraints, security, agency politics, complex procurement processes and vendor contracts.

The read the full study, click here.

About the Author

Natalie Lauri is an editorial fellow at FCW. Connect with her on Twitter: @Nat_Lauri.

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Reader comments

Fri, Jul 26, 2013 Brian Hattery

Mr. Darr's description of the DOD situation correlates strongly with that of the IRS

Thu, Jul 25, 2013 Erich Darr

Software-based IT is as much of a pipe dream as it was 30 years ago. The software required to analyse, design, develop, test and maintain complex processes with millions of permutations found in DoD systems just doesn't exist. The government has thrown away many billions on off-the-shelf software adapted into ERPs developed by vendors, who's staff lacks the knowledge of the in-house resources that developed and maintain legacy systems. While these projects are going on more and more of the corporate knowledge is lost through retirement.

Thu, Jul 25, 2013 Paul Averna (Micro Focus) VP Enterprise Solutions, North America

This study highlights some very interesting arguments. Legacy systems do need management, investment and innovation in order to be able to support the future demands of business. However, ‘magically’ migrating everything to a virtualised or commodity platform isn’t the only answer. Software-based IT is not without risk and there are more practical and cost effective options available. “Legacy” systems contain years of company intellectual property, hidden in millions of lines of code. Any changes can be costly to just simply re-write or replace and worse, could jeopardise other business-critical applications. Agencies that are exploiting existing business logic and modernising their applications are seeing these benefits without needing to invest in a new IT system. The dynamic, fast changing nature of technology is mounting pressure on IT departments to deliver applications as quickly as they are being demanded, and often across platforms (mobile, cloud, Windows, Linux or Unix). Federal agencies need to integrate existing functionality of core systems, with new architectures for a more cost effective solution. By modernising core applications, organisations can increase innovation whilst maintaining what already exists. The survey also raises the need for an application portfolio management (APM) solution regardless of the system in place. More than half of the IT leaders surveyed said their agencies do not have the ability to acquire new IT resources in a timely manner and are often consumed with routine tasks that could be automated. This makes application portfolio management (APM) a strategic imperative. An APM solution will help agencies make sense of their application portfolio by automating processes and provide centralised insight so that they can not only save time and money, but make the right innovation and development decisions.

Tue, Jul 23, 2013 Jaime Gracia Washington, DC

The greatest risk and obstacle to implementation of a software-based IT enterprise is the inability of an agency to effectively or adequately conduct the level of Business Process Engineering (BPR) required to leverage the benefits of the solution. The knowledge gap of federal IT workers, combined with the desire to always make “unique” requirements, creates a culture where change is almost impossible and the status quo with legacy IT is easier to execute. “Better the devil you know” seems to be the prevailing attitude.

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