APIs Can Bring Legacy Back to Life

Behind every successful business stands a mainframe or a neglected enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform; unloved but still very much needed.

Since the Harvard Mark 1 was launched in the 1940s, organizations have been using technology to help run their businesses. Today, however, much of their investment goes into a digital front end – mobile apps, web portals, etc. – at the expense of the back end, which makes those apps work.

Without a modern infrastructure, digital transformation is built on sand, and is a big reason why 70% of digital transformation projects fail. So, when mainframe integration, neglected ERP and other such systems are siloed within your company, they are holding back modernization. And, even though they are stymieing innovation, Accenture research said that 70% want to keep their core systems for as long as possible.

The digital fast lane

What that means is that you need a fast lane to modern infrastructure that brings your historical investments along for the ride – turning legacy into bedrock. The tech itself, and certainly the data within it, can be a fundamental part of your modernized organization. It just needs to be put at the heart of your enterprise – in other words, truly connected.

Given the high value of what’s in your legacy systems, you cannot become data driven without integrating that information into your core processes. Modifying legacy code is laborious and any number of small mistakes could significantly disrupt the process. Ripping and replacing not only undermines years of investment, it also carries its own challenges and risks in data migration.

So, what can be done? APIs hold the key. There are three fundamental considerations for setting your legacy free and getting on the fast track to modern infrastructure:

  1. Take control of your communication standards

Data access or integration is not a new challenge: Programmers can always find a way to get data in and out of the mainframe, usually with point-to-point integration and Java® and other interfaces. However, point-to-point integration becomes overwhelmed by the volume of the new demands and diversity of integration points. Plus, you can’t be re-writing integrations every time a new tech standard comes along.

APIs are independent of standards, reusable and provide the integration needed; you can use a standard of your choice and still simplify application interoperability.

  1. Re-use and recycle, especially business logic

Allow developers to call procedures from a mainframe, so they can use those same procedures as building blocks for new applications. This helps you to increase productivity and give your customers new ways to connect for better services.

APIs let you expose the business logic and data of applications as reusable services—build it once and use it over and over again. With the same approach you can extend the capabilities of your legacy systems by consuming services provided by others—internal or external to your organization. This means you can add capabilities or information without having to code it on your own. This is a key factor in removing the risk and expense of replacing or redeveloping your core applications.

  1. Make legacy as easy to work with as new tech

Convert green screens into user-friendly web-based interfaces and redesign the user experience by improving how you navigate the screen workflow. For instance, a .Net wrapper for mainframes can make it more accessible to younger developers with no mainframe experience to start developing new applications.

The best part of using APIs to connect legacy with the digital enterprise is that the mainframe can be treated the same as all the other assets in your organization that require integration. A common integration layer overlaid with an API governance structure secures, protects and manages accessibility. Not only can data fluidly flow to wherever it is needed, but less in-depth coding experience for specific legacy systems is needed to do so.

Enabling SQL access to legacy data lets developers join data from multiple sources. This means that it can be delivered to modern desktop applications used by business users and data scientists alike. Legacy data can also participate in event streams and big data initiatives, be added to data lakes and data hubs, and be accessible to cloud services and AI efforts.

The secret sauce

Digital services could overload legacy back ends if they’re not modernized. But these back ends could hold the secret sauce to future success. As that data becomes more crucial, and the people who best know how to make use of it retire, it has never been more crucial to extend your API strategy to bring legacy into your modern infrastructure.

To learn more about API enablement, visit here.

This article was originally published in Diginomica.


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