Modern legacy applications: DevOps and APIs leverage existing features

By Rosalind Radcliffe

Today’s digital disruption is causing developers to reassess how they can best meet businesses’ demands. For enterprises, however, this adjustment process is often halted by bulky, outdated legacy applications. How, then, can these companies stay ahead of the digital disruptors? Modern startups have the answer: They can build mobile apps based on APIs from cloud-hosted solutions. These small companies can overtake large, stable enterprises and industries overnight.

Leveraging Legacy Applications

In order to combat these small disruptors, enterprise CIOs need to take advantage of the intellectual capital locked in their existing legacy apps, most often running on the mainframe. These programs are massive, monolithic and have slow release cycles. The consequence is that companies are spending significant resources writing around these apps. In order to stay ahead, developers should instead transform their mainframe apps into new services, feeding the API economy. These could be for internal use, or they could be provided as external offerings. The latter is a great way to extract additional value from other businesses.

How can this transformation take place? It takes a business commitment as well as a transformation in focus. Development teams must dedicate themselves to building services out of existing capabilities. However, many CIOs are also surprised to hear that there are already several services available within their legacy apps. Many of these are hidden as customer information control system or information management system transactions. Enterprises can first expose these services internally. Yet, the move to building services does require a strategic transformation. Development teams require the speed and agility to make small changes and deliver them faster.

DevOps and APIs: Agility and Collaboration

This transformation requires a new way of thinking and working. Existing development and operations practices, though they have worked for years and have delivered a stable environment, really are not effective anymore. They are not providing sufficient business value at the speed businesses require today. Thus, existing mainframe apps require a transformation to modern development practices and tools. Businesses can gain increased speed and agility from their legacy apps by using modern DevOps transformation practices to integrate development teams, including mobile and mainframe, from the idea to the system maintenance phase.

DevOps helps ensure teams can work together to provide business value. In this environment, mobile developers can, for example, build engagement systems using the mainframe team’s services or APIs as part of one integrated, cross-functional team. This transformation requires modern tools and practices such as test automation. Through this particular practice, mainframe apps’ long development cycles can be significantly reduced. Additionally, developers have increased confidence when changing the apps because regression testing can ensure existing functions are not broken.

The key to transformation is to begin breaking up existing legacy apps into services or APIs that can mobile teams can easily use. APIs also can be more easily checked through test automation, and increased automation is required to deliver at businesses’ desired speeds. Further, APIs help companies create virtual services, which allow the mobile team to work independently of, but in stride with, the mainframe team. These tools can represent either business transactions or infrastructure-type transactions. The goal is to unlock the business value in existing legacy apps.

Written By

Rosalind Radcliffe

Distinguished Engineer, Chief Architect for CLM and DevOps, EM Solution Architect, IBM Master Inventor

Rosalind Radcliffe is an IBM Distinguished Engineer responsible for DevOps for Enterprise Systems. She drives the product direction in support of DevOps practices and helps clients with understanding how z/OS can be part of their DevOps transformation. This includes products such…

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