What's lurking in your data centre?
Legacy IT - a burden or tech age-ism?
It's a shame, isn't it. The term 'legacy' could mean such good things, but in IT we use it in the same condemning way we might refer to burnt out old warehouses, or rusting farm equipment. No system worth its salt wants to be considered as part of the legacy environment, and indeed, it's a CV decision as to whether people want to work with them, in development or support roles.
I remember my first job interview, with ICL. "What do you think of COBOL?" they asked. "It's a dinosaur," I replied. "Can't imagine it's got that much life left in it; only a fool would want to work in that field." It was on hearing the words, "We're a COBOL shop," that I knew the interview hadn't gone all that well. But here's the real punch line: that interview was back in 1987.
Today, we hear a range of conflicting views. We know for a fact that Mainframe isn't dead, or even dying - it has both adapted to the latest trends and business needs, all the while sticking with some of the stress-tested architectural principles that made it such a good platform in the first place.
There are undoubtedly applications still delivering the goods that were first commissioned decades ago, but meanwhile, we know of organisations that are held back by slow-running, inflexible applications that nobody dares touch.
It's not just big systems either - legacy can arise from making the wrong technological bets, like all those who invested their efforts in MySpace profiles, only to discover that Facebook was the de facto standard. Software and hardware, from email systems to network management tools, all can find themselves in the legacy dustbin.
So, where's the truth? Are we forever chasing technological rainbows, or is there plenty more to be had from our older systems and applications?
Is it a simple case of ignoring the marketing and choosing the right tool for the job using it until it stops being of value? What are your experiences - do you have any horrors lurking at the back of your data centre? What's in the pipe today that will become legacy after it gets deployed (or worse, before)? Is your organisation battling on with clunky kit, or coping fine and wondering what all the fuss is about?
As always, we'd love to hear your views.
Legacy stuff isn't the problem.
That's a myth.
There are running, functional systems, and there are broken systems. Legacy stuff that is still running, and functional is (by definition) not broken.
All of the examples listed in the 17 (at this moment) comments above are MANAGEMENT errors, and have nothing to do with the functionality of the systems being discussed.
The biggest management blunder is not having a plan for the future.
The second is not standardizing on functional systems (including upgrade path).
The third is not properly training staff in the use of those systems.
I have 30 year old machine code (running in a PDP11 emulator on Linux) that one client of mine is happy as hell to have ... It helps him keep track of a portion of his business that would otherwise require three or four pairs of technically trained eyes. (It's a specialty greenhouse, if you're curious ... the guy grows orchids, and keeps track of humidity, temperature, light levels, soil moisture, pH, salt, etc.). It originally ran on a pair of PDP11s (redundant systems ... hardware was flaky 30 years ago), now it's on a pair of dead-screen Pentium laptops that cost a total of $50. His electricity bill dropped, and the UPS powers the laptops for a little longer than the PDP11.
Is legacy stuff inherently "bad"? Nope. Bad management is, though.
RE: Not that recent...
> But back around 1999 (TaDum, TaDum), I got a call from someone who had been told I had IBM1401 experience. He had an _urgent_ need to reverse-engineer some 1401 binaries that had been running in a customer's workflow, under emulation, since, well, since that hadn't been a truly daft idea.
> The latest release of the mainframe OS, required by the latest hardware upgrade, no longer (some 30 years after migration should have been complete) supported 1401 emulation.
Knowing IBM, what's the betting that this was heard around 1996:
"Have you seen our latest company-wide software and systems audit? They've done something about that last 1401 system - it's not listed any more."
"Really? I'll make some enquiries, make sure we're not treading on anyone's toes, but I'd say we can ditch 1401 emulation in the next upgrade."
Legacy *can* be the idea that worked. There are legacy systems that were tailor-made then, and still fit now. There are also ones that don't fit now. And also ones that were an expensive, troublesome "best bodge" back then, but could now run on a LAMP server, with web browser clients accessing it over SSL - if the people in charge could get their fingers out and make the changes.
$25,000 pen plotters
Not even useful as boat anchors, except maybe for battleships.
Pen plotters - worth more than most cars in their day, built like brick sh1thouses, still work beautifully (made from METAL not creaky plastic shite we get nowdays) BUT they use serial ports (eh, whats that?) and HP (yep, those clowns) sites say - old model, not supported, no drivers beyond NT4.0
Their year-old inkjet models don't properly support 64bit, which we've just upgraded to... grrr...... so now we have MORE legacy tech... the waranty ran out on 24/10/08 so I can't even drop it down the stairs to 'upgrade'