The Power of Open Source - but what about legacy?
Any new project being planned at the moment will have at least some element of open source included and, in many cases, the entire project will be based on open source, community licenses and potentially some service agreement to support the open source software being used.
This has massive implications around cost both for the initial project and into the future as, in most cases, there will be no supplier lock in and if a service supplier gets too greedy, there is always competition out there to offer open source support services.
However, this does not cover the full story. Over the last 50 years, a lot of legacy systems and processes have been built up that cannot simply be ‘washed away’ by throwing open source at them.
Well Designed Legacy Systems Still in Use
The bean counters may like the thoughts of this but in many cases, it is a false economy. Undoubtedly some legacy systems were not well designed and still have issues to this day, they are still in use because in many cases they still run the core of the organisation’s business.
There have been many attempts to rip and replace legacy systems and most have either failed miserably, only partially achieved their goals or blew the value proposition out of the water resulting in massive cost overruns.
While you may not have heard about such projects, they are out there. Ultimately it makes more sense to evolve from your legacy environment. Many of these legacy systems are still fit for purpose in that they crunch massive amounts of data and have been well tested over their lifetimes. These are the systems where it makes sense to consider carefully what is to be done.
Complications and Solutions
In many cases, the core system is still working well, however, complications have been built up over the years making it difficult to use. Consideration should be given to going back to the core system and establishing a simpler, more user friendly interface to your newer applications.
Consider sharing the data from these legacy systems directly with your new systems so that the old and new can run in parallel. Over time once all are happy, perhaps your legacy users can be moved to the more modern platform but over a period of time that works for the business.
It is at this point that it may be possible to look at replacing the core with open source software but again, these are decisions that must be weighed up carefully.
The grass always looks greener on the other side so you must weigh up carefully what benefits will be achieved from moving to such a platform and at what cost.