Executive Roundtable: The Myths And Realities Of Legacy Systems

Three IT executives share their thoughts on holding onto legacy systems, and what effect that has on business innovation.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

July 19, 2007

2 Min Read

InformationWeek: So where is all of this leading? What changes do you see in the next few years?

Ken Harris: One tidal wave that's happening is both the proliferation of information and the immediacy of information to business users. A large part of why legacy got a bad rap was that the information needed for change--from users, partners, customers, competitors and stakeholders--wasn't getting where it had to go in a timely way. With real-time data, organizations are able to adapt to what's happening in the world. Systems won't become as ossified as in the past because of this real-time access to information and the technology that enables it.

Craig Murphy: It took four to five years to rewrite applications in the past, but if it ever takes more than 12 months now, look out.

Ken Harris: We won't batch-replace systems anymore. New technology allows us to replace pieces and parts, not full systems. I won't replace a full accounting system, for example, maybe just an accounts-payable piece that's part of a service architecture. There are continuous improvements in offering smaller, more manageable chunks of applications.

Paul Whatling: BT put in a large-scale, 18,000 end-point network to connect our health-care providers over the past three years. Now we're adding voice and extensions to it. We're building on this legacy network, not rebuilding it new. We're extending the architecture.

InformationWeek: What about virtualization? Do you see its advantages yet?

Craig Murphy: Sabre is beginning to work with its partner, EDS, on some virtualization. It's the future, but for a big system like Sabre, it's not there yet. To me, virtualization means using VMware on a collection of boxes that will then present an image of an end system based on capacity or software. The hardware can be remote or at your data center; if it's remote, it's a service. It's really about shifting the workload around as demand changes.

Paul Whatling: We've come to assume network reliability with no downtime at huge speeds. Convergence opens a new way to work collaboratively with customers. We've identified four key drivers: the switch to digitization; workforce virtualization--where people can work wherever they are in the world; sourcing; and real-time access to information and data. These are the drivers of the future.

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