Enterprises support $4.5 trillion worth of legacy systems: estimate

Enterprises support $4.5 trillion worth of legacy systems: estimate

Summary: IBM executive says 70 to 80% of IT resources is spent maintaining existing systems; recommends massive consolidation.

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TOPICS: Servers, Hardware
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There's gold in those legacy systems running in the back rooms. You just need to know where to dig.

Such systems -- presumably mainframes and midrange-class systems such as IBM System i and high-end Unix boxes -- still have plenty to offer enterprises. It's a matter of both developing methodologies that open up these systems, as well as cutting down number of applications supported.

That's the view of Kristof Kloeckner, general manager of IBM Rational Software, who was recently interviewed in IBM's own magazine. Using the proper tools, techniques and collaborative teamwork, IT can combine existing code and knowledge with newer techniques and technology to speed delivery of new services, he advocates.

Of course, IBM has a major horse in this race -- many of the world's "legacy" systems are IBM boxes, after all. But there's a lot to be said for opening up these systems to new ways of computing, versus the more expensive rip and replace. Kloeckner estimates there is at least "a $4.5 trillion cumulative investment" in software from 1995 to 2010 alone.

As it stands, he says, this massive base of legacy -- which requires considerable upkeep -- holds back progress:

"Sadly, 70 to 80% of the development effort taking place within mature enterprises is actually spent on maintaining existing systems. This preoccupation with 'keeping the lights on' prevents them from reacting to new challenges and opportunities in an agile fashion."

That's why working closely with the business -- and helping business decision makers understand what kind of computing power and assets already exist somewhere in the enterprise -- is key, Kloeckner says.  Develop a way both IT and the business can look at its entire IT portfolio, and work together to winnow down all those applications to the vital few that support essential functions. Of course, he recommends IBM solutions to help accomplish this, but there are a range of vendor tools and platforms that can help manage application lifecycles, replatform applications, and virtualize and consolidate IT assets. Importantly, by winnowing down applications to the percentage that actually support most of the business, IT and business managers will be able to better focus on business priorities on hand.

Of course, there's $4.5 billion worth of systems and applications to sort through.

Topics: Servers, Hardware

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  • IT isn't always to blame here.

    We have two applications that still run on a "small" IBM mainframe, both almost 30 years old. IT has tried twice to modernize these apps, moving them to first HP-UX and then to Linux. But both times we were blocked from taking the new systems live by ... business management. In the end, they were too frightened of any kind of outage or disruption to go live.

    SO, the business limps along on ancient software, IT spends a lot of bucks keeping COBOL and DB2 technical staff, and IBM charges us an arm and a leg to support a system that is years out of standard support. It's like a heart patient refusing an operation to keep them alive because they don't like needles.
    terry flores
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  • Big iron still rules.

    I work in a large enterprise and the fact is that big iron still pretty much rules everything, in terms of robustness, scalability and tolerance. We do have quite a few services on Unix servers but a huge amount of grunt work still runs on the big iron.
    While I understand the need for change as an IT guy, senior management and the business teams are of the "don't rock the boat" mindset, which makes sense if you think about it.
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    Joe, thanks for the interesting post. From our experience I can only agree. One thing though we often see enterprises struggling with is the insight into their systems and interdependencies. In study we did with Nucleus Research we found out that when making decisions IT organizations have to rely on data that is on average 14 months old and only 55% accurate.
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