Legacy software technologists may not be in demand in quite the same way as other developers, but there’s still a pressing need for their expertise. Even as technology rapidly evolves and new languages and platforms become commonly used, legacy solutions continue to work behind the scenes, providing essential building blocks to the infrastructure of countless organizations.
Having legacy systems migration and integration skills can bridge the gap between an organization’s past and future, particularly with more businesses moving into the cloud. A deep understanding of how different technologies can integrate and evolve can make someone with knowledge of the more arcane elements of a company’s architecture close to indispensable.
“When it comes to ‘dealing with legacy,’ there aren’t that many good options,” said Michael Coté, who works for software-maker Pivotal. “We often think of legacy as software that must be changed but that we’re afraid to change. Legacy has this connotation of it being risky, scary, or maybe just boring.”
It’s also intensely challenging. As Coté advises, if you want to go down into the mines of legacy management, start by researching a legacy system’s background and original purpose, what it’s currently used for, and any current stakeholders within your organization.
You may be surprised to find that only incomplete answers exist to those questions. Coté has even heard of companies that have shut down their legacy applications and waited to see if any customers got in touch. That kind of opacity can make things difficult (or for the sleuths among you, really interesting).
“Understanding the why, what, and who of a legacy system will tell you most of what you need to know when it comes to managing it,” Coté said. Managing a platform also means learning the underlying technologies and languages that run it.
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