How the IT Industry Turned “Legacy” into a Swear Word

October 20, 2015

I’ve been working in the IT industry long enough now to see how techies appropriate – and quite often misappropriate – words in the English language.  One such word is “legacy.”  For anyone outside the IT industry this could mean a couple of different things, but it probably has a more positive connotation than it does for your average CIO or IT Director.

Instead of alluding to the benefits associated with “leaving a legacy,” IT departments around the world have turned the word into something negative.  It has become synonymous with “headache,” “heartburn” and “frustration.”  And even more depressingly in recent times it has been a source of bad tempered arguments between certain vendors and their customers, ultimately becoming a byword for “expense” and “financial penalties.”

How has the IT industry managed to turn such a benign term into a swear word in such a short timeframe? And what can CIOs do to avoid legacy systems becoming such a drain on resources and finances?

The dual pressures of needing to innovate to remain competitive and the CFO’s demand for budget management (i.e. cuts) mean the CIO is under huge pressure. Consequently legacy systems have taken the blame for holding up change and draining the majority of existing budgets.

So where does that leave us? The solution proposed by some vendors seems to revolve around threats, clearly illustrated in this frightening article from Computing UK. If customers refuse to migrate some vendors are resorting to bullying tactics, threatening to switch off support for existing platforms or put customers through an audit. Given the commentary I have seen recently on the subject of licensing, I imagine that sentences combining the terms “legacy systems,” “licensing” and “audit” is a loathsome cocktail that strikes fear into the heart of any CIO.

Thankfully, CIOs have options. In the UK, organizations such as the Campaign for Clear Licensing and Free ICT Europe are leading a call for greater transparency in the way vendors price their licensing models. As an enterprise software vendor offering a subscription-based model we wholeheartedly agree with such a demand. The principles of open source software are important to EnterpriseDB and we recognize the importance of transparency in terms of our relationship with our customers. 

Additionally, legacy systems need not be such a headache, particularly when it comes to the mysterious world of proprietary licensing models. With products such as EnterpriseDB Postgres Plus Advanced Server, we provide a significantly lower cost alternative to the likes of the Oracle database. Indeed the likes of Gartner in its report (The State of Open-Source RDBMSs, 2015) are encouraging enterprise customers to consider alternatives to traditional proprietary databases: 

“Open source RDBMSs have matured and today can be considered by information leaders, DBAs and application development management as a standard infrastructure choice for a large majority of new enterprise applications.”

Above all, developing a migration path to open source-based systems will give CIOs and IT Directors breathing space, because it will free up budget. Gartner states that up to 80% of existing workloads can be transitioned, so you have an idea of the potential savings available. What’s more, because of advances in technology to support unstructured and semi-structured data alongside structured data, EDB Postgres is powering next-generation workloads that support greater customer engagement. EDB has also established market leadership and was recognized by Gartner with placement in the Leaders Quadrant in the 2015 Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems alongside the market’s largest brands.

There is a significant amount of potential savings that can be redirected to both innovation and what Gartner is calling “Renovating the IT Core.”  We are going to be discussing this at Gartner Symposium  in Barcelona in November and I am confident that there will be a number of enterprise users who will be interested how we can help “legacy” become something more than a dirty word! 

Pierre Fricke is vice president, product marketing, of EnterpriseDB.

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