Bringing DevOps to the legacy side of the business

It sometimes feels like DevOps is the master and commander of innovation. Almost every article you read focuses on how DevOps can help you run faster, quickly innovate that killer new service, or deliver new features that keep you one step ahead of the competition.

You read less about the legacy side of the business though. About how DevOps can help enterprises incorporate new ways of developing and delivering applications into their long-established, standard IT processes.

Enterprises like these are often complex and constrained by existing legacy infrastructure, and need to think about new ways to transition ‘brown field’ applications to an agile approach.

>See also: Is this the year of DevOps culture

Take the financial services sector, for example. Customers are increasingly demanding new ways to consume services – whether it is through new channels or new services themselves.

Indeed, the British Bankers Association recently reported that more people now check their bank balances via a mobile app than any other channel. The internet, branch and phone banking? They are quickly disappearing into history.

Banks know they need to change, but with so much legacy technology in place that change is never easy. A major British bank, for example, recently experienced a computer systems failure that led to 600,000 payments not being processed and customer accounts not being updated. It cost the bank, both in terms of revenue and customer goodwill.

There’s good news for these organisations saddled with so much legacy IT though. There is a way for them to be as responsive as the digital setup by two guys in a garage, or any company starting a project from a ‘green field’ perspective.

Gartner refers to it as ‘bimodal IT’ – a dual approach to IT that balances getting IT right with delivering the speed and agility the organisation needs to meet digital challenges. Managing legacy care and bringing new apps to market quickly. Blending stability and agility.

In this new era of digital transformation, that bimodal IT scenario is not quite clear-cut. To innovate at speed, organisations still need to access old systems, ensure those legacy systems talk to the new ones, and that they possess the necessary performance.

That complexity is compounded by the fact that if you change one legacy system, it might impact on another application downstream.

Emphasising speed without sacrificing stability

The answer is to adopt a DevOps philosophy that emphasises speed and efficiency without sacrificing adequate stability.

DevOps enables a closer working arrangement between developers and operations personnel – its best practitioners automate where possible and in the process they make developers responsible for ensuring their code functions well in an operational environment. As a result, CIOs saddled with large legacy systems can achieve IT agility and stability.

Business automation is a crucial component of this agility story. This enables organisations to scale their DevOps from fragmented teams and applications to the entire business, system and application process – whether on-premise, in the cloud or hybrid.

The bottom line? Business automation will make an important difference in continuous delivery and DevOps productivity across legacy applications.

IT must place a significant emphasis on design for automation – especially for testing, but also for configuration management, release management, infrastructure provisioning and other delivery steps.

For instance, system setup and configuration can be automated (using Chef or Puppet, for example) – and you can automate the testing of that setup too. Plus, you can automate code generation and integration. And add scripts that combine the code generation and integration.

Business automation can help in other ways too. Look at the way software containers like Docker are reshaping how applications are packaged and deployed, or how the microservices architecture is emerging as a boon to continuous integration and deployment. These and other emerging are accelerating change, but they add a new degree of complexity and diversity.

Using business automation for service orchestration, businesses can automate the delivery of simple or complex IT services requested by their users. By orchestrating the provisioning and changing of different service components across business and system layers, they can evolve existing legacy data centre assets towards innovative cloud operations – without ripping and replacing existing IT investments and skills.

Automation of workloads also enables organisations to act as agile as that new green field site. They can centrally manage the execution of all your business processes across any environment.

By ensuring all IT and business processes work together, organisations can more easily integrate and introduce new processes. That could be anything from big data analytics to support the launch of a new mobile telco service, to connecting the business processes supported by your SAP or Oracle platform.

>See also: 5 steps towards successful DevOps

Moreover, business automation can minimise the number of changes required to legacy systems. By allowing business process to be defined and executed quickly and easily, automation ensures legacy systems and new apps can work seamlessly together.

In an era of ever-tighter compliance and regulation, businesses need to evolve their legacy applications so that their reporting and auditing is swift, transparent and cost-effective.

Here again, business automation can be used to centrally manage and monitor business applications and IT systems processing – eliminating manual errors, managing complex application dependencies and lowering risk.


Sourced from Vladi Shlesman, Automic Software

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...