I've suggested that framing the debate around technology and business problems like Legacy Application Modernization (aka Legacy Modernization or Application Modernization) that are solved by Integration is an alternative way to deliver the value of this critical technology.
Simplifying Legacy Application Modernization
Although Legacy Application Modernization comes in many flavors, at its core, it involves:
1) An assessment of the current application's structure and functionality
2) Decisions on which "parts" to keep, which parts to re-write, which parts to replace with off-the-shelf software
3) What kinds of new functionality should be added in to the mix (typically via purchase of new SaaS or On-Premises software)
4) Decisions on which platforms to leverage
5) Determination of how to "connect" all the pieces together - the new pieces as well as the existing pieces of software in the enterprise.
Drivers of Legacy Application Modernization
In a 2011 survey done by NexaWeb, the four top reasons for modernization of legacy applications were (in order) to:
1) Facilitate integration with other applications in their portfolio
2) Reduce maintenance costs
3) Meet user change requests faster
4) Eliminate unsupported hardware and software.
It is most interesting and refreshing to see that the main motivator for Legacy Application Modernization is NOT cost - it's about making the business more agile, responsive and adaptable. To truly allow IT to not only support the business, but to become a competitive advantage for the business.
Legacy Application Modernization Solutions
Legacy applications come in many flavors - Client/Server (like PowerBuilder), Mainframe applications, early Web applications (e.g. ColdFusion), or even Mega-ERP installations like SAP.
Along these lines, Dell today made an announcement related to SAP Application Modernization.
Many SAP instances have been in place since well before the Y2K crisis. They've been heavily customized over the years and truly qualify as "legacy applications needing modernization".
These SAP implementations need to become more scalable and flexible, be able to integrate better with newer SaaS, Cloud, Mobile and Social Media technologies - and leverage lower-cost, elastic cloud platforms.
This Dell announcement - which was issued through Dell Services (once upon a time known as Perot Systems) is focused on those organizations who are on proprietary UNIX, legacy x86, and other aging infrastructures to move to a new platform more quickly, with less downtime, lower risk and reduced cost.
Why Legacy Application Modernization Needs Integration
A Legacy Application is typically large to huge, relatively monolithic, and deployed in a pretty centralized fashion. When this application is re-engineered into many different pieces - with some of those pieces being custom development work, others being On-Premises off-the-shelf software, others being SaaS subscription software, and who knows what else - SOMETHING has to link all those functions together.
That formerly monolithic and centralized application is now spread across many places. And it all needs to be linked back into the other applications that the Enterprise uses.
Enterprises have two choices: 1) build all that infrastructure themselves (a bad idea for so many reasons), or 2) buy it from an Integration software vendor.
Either way, Integration is one of the key enabling capabilities of Legacy Application Modernization - you can't have Legacy Modernization without it.
May 8: Legacy Application Modernization Relies on Integration
According to Dell's May 8th announcement, "The Dell Cloud Development Kit for SAP Solutions provides access to a robust 32,000 SAPS of virtual computing capacity to deploy development environments for more advanced customers who need a rich development landscape for running SAP applications. This offer provides a comprehensive developer environment with additional capabilities for application modernization and features industry-leading Dell Boomi technology for rapid cross-application integration."
Dell has a nice advantage in the Legacy Application Modernization space - they bought a leading Integration Vendor (Boomi) in 2010. This announcement helps place Integration software like Boomi where it belongs - solving business problems and making the enterprise more agile.
Note: Hollis is a Director for Software Strategy in Dell's Global Mergers and Acquisitions organization