Continuous Integration and Legacy Applications

By: Peter Marquez, EVP Sales and Marketing

4-steps-to-CII had a meeting with a prospective client in the retail industry recently. She was telling me about a strategic legacy system that had been put into production 15 years before she had joined the company: “We thought we were going to re-engineer it with a more modern technology. We really did allocate dollars for the project. But we realized there’s no business reason to re-write that application. It works, and unlike some of our newer systems, it doesn’t generate headaches.”

I nodded in agreement as she continued, “Now it makes more business sense to keep it running and to make sure our people can maintain and enhance it.”

As we completed our discussion we started to talk about Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment, though we didn’t call it that initially.   Our conversation focused on:

  1. The development process and how it could be modernized so any competent developer could use Eclipse to maintain her legacy application
  2. How the build process, which had become brittle and complex, could be simplified and automated
  3. How automated application testing and dependency management could be integrated into the build, test, manage process.

Previously, Continuous Integration and Deployment were only available to 4GL Java and C# developers working in the most up-to-date environments. Now, eCube is making these capabilities available to legacy 3GL applications running on OpenVMS, NonStop, Unix and other platforms running C/C++, COBOL, FORTRAN, and PASCAL. With NXTware Remote, companies can eliminate the need for specialized knowledge and bring Continuous Integration to legacy 3GL applications. Systems that companies were reluctant to touch now become candidates for automated deployment.

Of course, the same rationale rings true for CORBA and other legacy middleware.  The stronger the business rationale to stay on a platform, the greater the need for tools that make maintenance more agile and cost effective. Continuous Integration is changing how organization view valuable legacy 3GL and middleware applications.

So, I am looking for a few good articles with titles like “A Manager’s Guide to Continuous Integration for Legacy Applications” to share with prospective clients like her. I haven’t found one yet, but if anyone finds one let me know. Otherwise, let’s write a good article or case study together.

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