Part 4: Innovation Blog Series – Future-proofing Your IT Architecture

11.26.2012

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Introduction
How does a business adapt its architecture in order to survive in the cut-throat world of IT? This blog explores the dilemmas faced by IT managers and how reusing what works well and replacing what doesn’t could point your business in a sunnier direction.

Under pressure
As end users continue to raise their expectations for sleek, glossy functionality, pressure is mounting on core IT systems to deliver innovative solutions while sustaining existing systems that are already stretched thin. IT managers are forced to evaluate existing architectures and consider if what they have today can take them into tomorrow.  For businesses with so-called “legacy IT” systems, this poses even bigger questions: can such systems participate in new IT architecture or will they inevitably get left behind?

An ever-changing world
IT architecture must continually evolve but at the same time, IT systems become more complex with more moving parts, more integration and more demands for a better experience. A tug-of-war breaks out driven by the need to innovate versus the need to improve day-to-day business operations. But with existing systems already stretched to their limits, maintaining business as usual is in itself a fulltime preoccupation for most of the IT department.

For older core IT systems, the situation is often compounded. Consider the technical debt that can arise in a 5 year old business and its IT system and then multiply that for companies and IT systems 30 years or more in the making.

Separating architecture from function
The opportunity or perhaps the excuse, to throw away an inherited system with all its problems and start again can be very appealing. But replacing all the intricately interwoven processes with a new language and architecture would be the stuff of nightmares.

Therein lies an important realisation. Good architecture is merely a mechanism for change; it enables us to get things done quickly and effectively. Bad architecture on the other hand is an inhibitor. It slows us down making progress more costly and harder to achieve. Architecture and functionality are really two distinct pieces. Architecture viewed at any point above the code is often just the means by which to deliver a service. It allows users to interact and trigger events that initiate well defined business processes.

So our realisation is twofold. Firstly, we need the steadfast functionality of core systems. Secondly, we need the adaptability of new architectures. Older core IT systems may suffer from unwieldy architectures today, but the inherent functionality and service they provide is likely to be aligned directly with business need. After all, it would be hard for any IT system to reach legacy status if it didn’t deliver core functionality reliably.

We need to replace the rotting foundations in older systems
Savvy IT managers know that older core IT systems provide core business function, but how to reuse it within a new architecture creates a real dilemma.

These new architectures may dictate a new programming language, such as Java, as well as an app server and object-oriented semantics. Marrying these pre-requisites with what you have today may seem a long way from your desired architecture. But it can be done effectively, without resorting to costly, risky re-engineering projects.

Confronting the challenge
Whatever the architecture, you’ll be tasked with integrating a multitude of new technologies and a host of new data formats that help glue the components of your new system together. The ease of integration defines how quickly you can build them.

By using Unicode and XML support available directly within COBOL for example, you can connect decade-old applications with new components. By moving COBOL data into a relational database and by using ODBC, JDBC or ADO, the entire architecture can adopt an industry standard approach to data access, back up plans, business analytics and more.

Together with Java and C# interoperability with COBOL, you have all the building blocks you need to create a unified architecture. Integration with Visual Studio and Eclipse gives your developers a place to build it, using the best-in-class tooling. This same tooling enables you to have an improved user interface with the aid of Web 2.0, by SOA-enabling your system, building in Cloud components such as SQL Azure, or enabling mobile access for your users.

Reuse what you can
Being able to reuse your existing COBOL applications will pave the way to adopting new architecture and accelerate your results. By reusing proven application logic, you know that what you’re building is based on a sound strategy that has been providing business value for years.

Adopting new architecture is closer than you think
Micro Focus can provide you with a path to your new architecture by enabling you to reuse existing COBOL assets within contemporary deployment systems. Whether that is within a Java app server, ASP.NET or by using SOA principles, our software tools are designed to bring older systems right up to date for 21st century architecture deployment.

If you’re ready to move to a new architecture, Micro Focus is here to help you take the first step.

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