Small in Name Only: Tech Trends for Small Businesses This content is produced in association with the sponsor and is not part of ZDNet's editoral content. Learn more

ZDNet Multiplexer

mul-ti-plexer-er. noun. A device, in electronics, that synthesizes disparate data signals into a single, uniform output. ZDNet Multiplexer merges various perspectives, media types, and data sources and synthesizes them into one clear message, via a sponsored blog.

ZDNet Multiplexer allows marketers to connect directly with the ZDNet community by enabling them to blog on the ZDNet publishing platform. Content on ZDNet Multiplexer blogs is produced in association with the sponsor and is not part of ZDNet's editorial content.


APIs Smooth the Path to Modernization

Getting legacy solutions to play nicely with modern applications can be a huge challenge, but software helps build a bridge from the old to the new.

As new technologies are released, sometimes they don't integrate well – or at all – with older systems or applications. Legacy systems may be tough to work with and maintain over time, but they can't be easily replaced, either. 

Your company needs new technology and regular upgrades to improve efficiency and drive growth, but shoddy implementation can cost time, resources, money, and staff. Thorough planning before implementation can minimize such issues, and by going one step further – aligning business and technology plans – your business can scale more easily and embrace digital transformation.

Let's modernize

As time goes by, systems age, and IT pros can spend hours troubleshooting. Tools such as Dell EMC CloudIQ can help reduce the time it takes to identify problems and reduce risk, with proactive health notifications and predictive analytics that detect and flag deviations and performance impacts. The faster problems are detected, the sooner they can be mitigated. 

When you're considering a move to software-defined infrastructure, IT should be viewed as a business partner, rather than a cost center. When business goals pivot, IT can bring appropriate solutions to support the change and keep momentum going. In this way, technology becomes part of a company's DNA instead of a drag on progress. For example, if a retailer wants to increase repeat business, an aligned IT goal could be CRM implementation.

The reverse is true, as well. Many businesses rely on IT in order to evolve their manufacturing, distribution, and sales operations. For example, a company that customizes fleet management software to coordinate its own deliveries may find a new revenue stream licensing that software to other companies. When technology is integrated into strategy, you'll find that efficiency improves, profitability rises, and ROI is achieved sooner, because employees can work smarter and accomplish more.

Many companies, however, are forced to innovate within the confines of their legacy systems. Those are the technologies that help run daily operations. They are tried and true; they've just always worked. Yet they may also be standing in the way of progress.

The cost and risk involved in ripping and replacing these systems may be enormous and impractical. However, running them alongside modernized solutions or cloud applications necessitates some kind of bridge between the old and the new. 

In with the old

Legacy systems can be a headache to maintain. They are often built on older technology, possibly with an outdated user interface. Reporting and analytics, if you have them, are often afterthoughts that were bolted on with custom configuration.

Outdated software is also difficult to run on new systems, so there's the concern that it may crash at any moment.  It's also difficult to find programmers to support older technologies based on languages such as FORTRAN or COBOL.

Such systems often can't share information with newer technologies, and so they function as siloes, inflexible and cumbersome to manage. They are also vulnerable; many older solutions are not supported by regular patching and vendor updates, which leaves them open to exploitation. 

In addition, they lack the capacity to integrate with orchestration, process automation, and self-service models. Legacy systems, it turns out, are one of the biggest barriers to digital transformation, according to a recent report by Infosys.

A path forward

Many businesses are able to drive digital transformation by using APIs (application programming interfaces) to integrate new digital technologies on top of legacy systems. You might need some professional help in the short term, but the API serves as a 'translator' so the old systems can talk to the new. Your business can then innovate, share information among departments, and collect and analyze data. APIs also provide a way to avoid the clunky, old-fashioned UI that only one or two people remember how to use.

APIs create easy interfaces that can be used by current developers who don't need to understand the old code and business logic behind legacy systems. That's a major staffing advantage.

As you're evolving your company's infrastructure, there are also many efficiencies to be gained by using open-source tools. Familiarize yourself with Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC), a Linux-based network operating system (NOS) that is optimized for virtual infrastructure. Tools like SONiC enable consistent automation across data centers and networks, helping align IT resources with application, developer, and business requirements.

Understand the importance of code currency -- the continuous process of evaluating how current a piece of hardware or software is compared with the latest available version. Currency problems can cause enormous damage. The notorious WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware attacks exploited a vulnerability for which Microsoft had already released security updates. However, the ransomware still hit unsupported and unpatched systems. According to PwC, the NotPetya ransomware cost businesses more than $100 million.

You will have to budget time for building these integrations and for regular maintenance, but once you have the data and functionality in legacy applications available, you can start the process of modernizing them, as well. 

Syncing your legacy systems with a modernized tech stack lets you eliminate data silos and sets the stage for automating workflows across processes in HR, finance, sales, marketing, accounting, and so on. Using APIs with legacy systems lets you retain your existing investment without risking major upheaval, shore up potential vulnerabilities, and empower your organization to grow.

And don't forget that Dell Small Business advisors are ready to help with all of your infrastructure needs.


Dell and Intel just had a big success. It may break your heart

Dell and Intel just had a big success. It may break your heart

The hidden way to print to PDF on iPad and iPhone

The hidden way to print to PDF on iPad and iPhone

Google makes it easier to ditch the iPhone with Switch to Android app update

Google makes it easier to ditch the iPhone with Switch to Android app update