Legacy software is all around us, and it’s driving mission-critical software systems. These systems are often responsible for critical areas of businesses like insurance claims processing, bank transactions, and inventory management. Today’s stakeholder demands visibility into what’s happening in these systems and does not know or care that these systems were not designed to support today’s digital initiatives.
This blog lays out the landscape and describes how these legacy systems came to be so prevalent, the role they play in today’s enterprise IT environments, and the role MuleSoft can play in unlocking these systems and allowing businesses to incorporate these mission-critical workflows within the digital initiatives of today.
Ancient Times: The Year 2005
Like many of our engineers at Green Irony, I started my career at IBM working in R&D on middleware software platforms. More specifically, I was part of IBM’s WebSphere Application Server Network Deployment product development team. If you’re not familiar the product, this Java Enterprise Edition platform served as middleware and allowed both IBM and customers to build custom applications adhering to the JEE spec while also adding several other valuable pieces that went beyond the scope of the spec like high availability, dynamic caching, load balancing, etc. that allowed the platform to scale to the demands of the enterprise. If you’ve heard of Microsoft’s .NET platform, you can think of them as similar and virtually interchangeable for purposes of this article.
I came onto the team in 2005 near the middle of the development cycle for WAS (WebSphere Application Server) 6.1, which was released in the summer of 2006. At that point in time, the product was mature in the market and in heavy use by many of the major banks, insurance carriers, retailers, and other large enterprise technology teams. This product and .NET were basically “how things were done” in the enterprise during that time period, but SaaS software and new paradigms like mobile would soon enter the picture and heavily disrupt the technology landscape.
Ancient Software Relics in a Changed World: The Year 2019
The software platforms and development paradigms that we utilized from my time as a product developer in 2005 still exist today and cannot be ignored. In order to highlight why using these older patterns today is such a challenge, keep in mind that the following table-stakes technology concepts were still little known, non-existent, or pie-in-the-sky in 2005:
- Mobile web and application usage
- Cloud computing, SaaS, PaaS
- API economies
- Data warehouse and data lakes
- Predictive analytics and artificial intelligence
- The ubiquitous “Digital transformation” umbrella of initiatives
- The Chief Digital Officer position
- The original iPhone
In short, the technology landscape has been turned upside down since I first started my career at IBM. Despite this fact, the same patterns used to develop software on WAS in the year 2005 are still in heavy use. From my lens as a technology consultant, these patterns are still in use for two primary scenarios:
- Legacy systems in enterprise environments that have mission-critical data and workflows
- Slow-moving but mission-critical technology stacks in industries where even new products are still developed with these patterns. Good examples are insurance policies, claims, and billing systems or the majority of generally available e-commerce platforms.
Even in industries like insurance where the in-house technology stack has been slow to evolve, the customer’s needs and demands in the digital arena have not. The customer expects to be able to obtain the information that they need when they need it. They don’t care about the fact that your policy system is on a mainframe that was stood up in the 1970s—they want to be able to modify their shipping address and billing information in self-service scenarios, review claim information on the fly, and receive a quote for a new policy without having to enter a ton of information.
How to Modernize Your Legacy Systems
Since these legacy systems are not going away any time soon, technology executives must find new and better ways to retrofit them into the bigger picture of their technology visions to drive value to their customers. This goal is easier said than done since these systems pre-dated digital transformation initiatives by a decade or more and thus were never intended to address these challenges. Our task then is to make these systems communicate in ways that didn’t exist when they were created.
MuleSoft is the best and only solution in the market that is tailor-made for accomplishing this mission. While many Enterprise Service Buses (ESB) and other integration solutions exist, no other was purpose-built for solving these problems and other options feature heavy compromises. With a projected number of over $800 billion spent on tactical integration projects in 2018 (roughly 22% of all IT budgets), solving these integration challenges is critical or enterprises risk treading water and falling behind in the rapidly-evolving digital landscape. Investment in this area solidifies the foundation of an enterprise IT environment, enabling the organization to deliver on new projects exponentially faster as MuleSoft’s presence and its library of re-usable assets grows with time.
MuleSoft’s value is broad in scope and impossible to capture in a blog of this length. At a high level, think of it as a platform, toolset, mindset, and prescriptive approach that allows your line of business to work with your technology and development team on a platform that provides the following benefits:
- Facilitation of best-practices in architecture and development of APIs
- Rapid development on a platform built to sustain and grow entire enterprise networks of APIs
- Integration with legacy-systems by transforming them into modern, consumable APIs
- Reduction of operational overhead and complexity via an optional PaaS deployment model
- Increase in developer efficiency via re-use of lego-like assets in an “Apple AppStore” sharing model
- Capture, ownership, and re-use of enterprise business rules and logic as API assets
- Provide, orchestrate, govern, and secure everything on a single unified platform
All of these benefits add up to real business value and increase in the “clock speed” of a business, enabling the business to deliver value to stakeholders much faster than it otherwise would have been able to with the same number of technology resources.
We believe that MuleSoft is the key to unlocking enterprise IT environments to effectively drive digital transformation efforts and one of the most strategic technology investments a business can make. While the toolset itself is revolutionary in that it combines a highly-effective technology platform that was purpose-built to task with architectural and delivery methodologies effective at providing the guardrails necessary for successful execution, a great deal of expertise in enterprise architecture and development is critical in ensuring a solid MuleSoft foundation. In other words, while MuleSoft does not reduce the need for top-end architects and developers, it does provide these top-end architects and developers with a superior toolset to operate on that eliminates a great deal of time-consuming and tedious tasks, allowing them to focus on design, re-usability, scalability, and architectural best practices and to accomplish more in the same amount of time.
Want to dive deeper into the benefits of MuleSoft? In our post, Balancing The Scales of API Networks with MuleSoft and Cloudhub, Kevin McAbee breaks down how MuleSoft can be a fulcrum in the balance between your business’s needs and the methods and speed of technology to address those needs.
Want to learn more about why Green Irony is so excited about MuleSoft? We’d love to hear from you.