At first glance, “DevOps” and “legacy application” may not seem like terms that belong in the same sentence. DevOps is a software development and operations strategy associated with modernization, and legacy apps are something businesses typically think of as assets they must keep around until they have time to replace them with a newer alternative.
In reality, though, there are good reasons to bring DevOps and legacy applications together. Applying DevOps to legacy systems, such as those hosted on platforms like SAP, is a great way for businesses to get more value out of those applications without the time and cost of rewriting them from scratch.
Keep reading for why and how to adopt DevOps practices to modernize legacy apps, even if the apps remain unchanged.
What is DevOps?
As you may already be aware, if you follow conversations about modern software delivery practices, DevOps – a portmanteau of “development” and “IT operations” – is a strategy that encourages close collaboration between software developers and IT teams when designing, writing and deploying software.
Among the core goals of DevOps are:
- Increasing the velocity of software development through better coordination between the various stakeholders.
- Improving software quality and availability by quickly making developers aware of bugs or other problems.
- Ensuring developers have visibility into IT engineers’ challenges when supporting applications post-deployment so that developers can make changes to mitigate those issues.
- Continuously improving applications over time by constantly adding new features, enhancing performance and reducing hosting and management costs.
How DevOps Benefits Legacy Apps
DevOps tends to be associated most closely with modern software development techniques and technologies. It goes hand-in-hand with microservices architectures, for example, containers and Kubernetes.
But there’s no law that says DevOps is only for modern applications. Legacy apps, too, stand to gain from the benefits that DevOps has to offer. Businesses want to bring efficiency to managing and updating legacy apps just as much as modern apps.
You can argue that applying DevOps strategies to legacy apps is even more critical than in the context of modern apps because legacy apps tend to be less efficient and more challenging to maintain than their more modern counterparts since legacy apps were built using older paradigms and technologies. In that sense, DevOps offers a way to modernize legacy apps, at least from the perspective of management and support, even in cases where businesses can’t overhaul the applications themselves.
Limitations of DevOps for Legacy Apps
On balance, it’s worth noting that not all practices associated with DevOps can be applied easily to every legacy app.
The biggest limitation of DevOps within legacy systems is that organizations may not be able to update legacy codebases as frequently as they update modern apps due to the more complex nature of the code or a lack of developers skilled in writing new code for legacy apps. This means that businesses may not always be able to add new features to legacy apps as rapidly as they do for other software.
In addition, Legacy apps also aren’t always as easy to integrate with the automated software development and deployment tools that DevOps teams commonly use, such as Continuous Integration (CI) servers and release automation software. Not all legacy systems support these tools.
But these limitations don’t mean DevOps doesn’t work for legacy systems. They simply require businesses to adapt their DevOps practices a bit—and change expectations in some cases—to suit legacy apps.
Getting Started with DevOps for Legacy Apps
Adopting DevOps practices to manage legacy applications is not fundamentally different from adopting DevOps for any other type of software. The process starts with assessing your organization’s applications and their needs. Determine your biggest development, operations and support pain points, then identify DevOps practices and tools that can help solve them.
Change your software delivery and management practices from there to fit your DevOps vision. You may also need to adopt some new tools (such as CI servers) to put DevOps into practice.
Conclusion: DevOps as a Step Toward Legacy Transformation
DevOps is only one of many ways businesses can transform and modernize legacy applications. But it’s among the most straightforward and effective ways to get more value from a legacy app, given that it doesn’t require any fundamental changes to the application itself.
So, if legacy systems burden your business, remember there are other solutions besides rewriting your code from scratch. Making strategic changes to your software delivery and operations practices to align with DevOps might be the best way to improve your legacy apps for your business.
Published: CDO Trends