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Could IT Legacy Modernization Have Kept the Lights on in Texas?

Consider the recent weather-related tragedies in Texas. Most seem ready to pin the blame on Texas’ near-total isolation from the rest of the U.S. power grid. And they’d be right – but only in part. The Lone Star State’s grid independence actually got its start nearly 100 years ago as a way to avoid federal regulators.

Still, that piece of trivia ignores what many are calling leaders’ longstanding indifference to IT infrastructure problems that, when examined critically, could bear responsibility for the widespread power outages, extensive property damage, and tragic loss of life throughout Texas.

While the events in Texas were unprecedented and beyond anything we could have imagined, they were predictable. In fact, a similar (though less catastrophic) event took place in Texas a decade ago. In 2011, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Reliability Corporation produced a 357-page report on a widespread outage the same year that affected more than 3 million customers. (source: Austin American-Statesman, Feb. 22, 2021)

In the IT world, technologists apply legacy modernization practices to every customer’s tech environment. Think of legacy modernization analysis as your tech environment’s “annual physical” – information is gathered and analyzed about the health of the system, and an assessment is made about your application and system environment that. A good legacy modernization analysis always concludes with recommendations that address your tech environment’s specific challenges.

Legacy modernization triages system health and prescribes remedies that will optimize business systems, address technological constraints, and support the adoption of, and migration to, newer technology platforms. These remedies range from the least invasive and easiest to implement to more complex, involved procedures. Each is designed to keep your current applications and systems operating at peak efficiency.

Our system health is a lot like our personal health, in that far too often we take it for granted. But with such significant reliance on the IT ecosystems that support every aspect of our business, we can’t afford tolerance of such high-stakes vulnerabilities when it comes to the care and feeding of our applications and systems.

Perhaps most troubling is the fact that system failures like the ones in Texas – while not wholly anticipated – could have been predicted. Unfortunately, a level of risk was accepted (or ignored) without adequately planning to address it. Leaders understand it is their responsibility to recognize and measure your exposure to avoid problems in the first place, and to remedy them if and when they occur.

Infrastructure Maintenance Through Legacy Modernization

We have the opportunity to learn here – not just about power grids or winter weather – but about maintaining our IT infrastructures. In the same way we care for our own health – through regular monitoring, isolating variables, and targeting treatment – we must care for the systems and supports that drive our business forward.

With IT infrastructures, legacy modernization is the key. Once you understand your system’s challenges, you can prioritize and tackle them one by one. Start where it makes the most sense for your business to generate the biggest bang for the buck.

Legacy modernization provides seven possible approaches to achieve your system health objectives (source: Gartner):

  • Encapsulation. Entails retaining current features and extending them via an API or even a mobile application.Rehost. Migrate the mobile app and most of the hosting to a different or updated provider, usually a cloud hosting provider.
  • Re-platform. While leaving your application code intact, update the underlying technology running your environment. Example: Upgrading the server platform from Windows to Linux.
  • Refactor. A more invasive tactic that involves making more significant changes to existing code to reach your objectives. Example: Adding an entirely new business function to your application, such as e-commerce.
  • Rearchitect. Re-architecture allows you to step back and take advantage of improved technology that may not have been available when your application was created. Example: containerization of your development pipeline to streamline new feature deployment.
  • Rebuild. Just as the term implies, during rebuild you are completely redesigning (or rewriting) the application component while continuing to meet current and future business challenges. This approach often requires performing maintenance of the existing system in parallel.
  • Replace. Start over from scratch, but this time you have the wisdom of past experience to guide the design and implement the new approach to solving problems. Example: Leaving behind an old SaaS product losing market share and deploying a new, faster solution that puts the needs of modern users first.

Legacy Modernization is not an “all or nothing” approach to maintaining and improving your applications and systems. As we can see in Texas, small steps could have been taken to mitigate the impact of recent events.

Interested in learning more about modernizing your legacy system infrastructure?Contact ITX today! We’re excited to work with you.

Peter Ryckaert is Production Support Manager at ITX Corp. He is an experienced leader who leverages IT to deliver business value to clients. Peter is an AWS Business Professional, a Microsoft Certified Professional, and is certified in ITIL Foundation v3.

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