Have you ever been through a major migration of a legacy system to a web-based system? I suffered through one in the late 90s in my past life. Now tools have gotten better but it is still a potentially difficult process. Many enterprise organizations want to move to web-based application platforms and solutions to reduce their total cost of ownership, improve business process performance and eliminate some of the geographical and technical barriers to adoption. With web applications, change requests can be often processed on a weekly basis, not on a six month basis. However, many consider this beneficial migration with fear and trembling. This fear is so great they continue to spend large amounts of money to hold on to these cash bleeding legacy systems. In the Web 1.0 world this fear was very real. Here is another area where Web 2.0 can bring some relief.
Recently, I spoke with David McFarlane, COO of Nexaweb and Rob Gagne, Vice President of Engineering. Nexaweb was founded in 2000 and released its first products in 2003. Through their Nexaweb Enterprise Web Suite the company makes use of composite web applications (aka mashups) to convert legacy systems with less risk, in less time, and at less cost than the old style methods. The power of these composition applications actually goes beyond simply doing a migration to dramatically reduce costs and obtain more agility. Enterprises are now able to create new intelligent applications that draw on multiple data sources but are much more than portals. Call centers are great venues for this type of change but it is not limited to them.
For example, Nexaweb has provided a number of banks with an end-to-end foreign currency trading platform that gives access to over 120 data sources, inside and outside the enterprise. However, the platform does not simply provide traders with windows to all this data in a few seconds. The application is fully functional so that all back end trade execution processes are handled in a few seconds in a single application. It is an enterprise mashup of the entire process. The banks get a transformation of the technology supporting their work, not simply a migration to web applications.
Nexaweb recently released Nexaweb Advance sm to provide further help to the transformation process. They also provide consulting services through their Nexaweb Modernization Services to help you through the process. Here is an overview of the five step process.
Capture: This first step allows for the auto-generate documentation of legacy artifacts, logic, User Interface (UI) elements and data maps in standards-based representation. The business logic contained with the legacy system is also displayed in a workflow that allows developers to understand the business logic that is often buried within the system.
Re-factor: Legacy systems often contain many patchwork fixes. In this step Nexaweb eliminates duplicative and corrupt code, reviews code for architectural integrity, and delivers UI and business logic to a customer-specified architecture.
Re-compose: With the business logic exposed, a richer workflow can be adopted with auto-generate XML from the documented legacy code. Firms can add new features and modify workflow, design Web UI and functionality.
Deploy: Now the transformed web application can be installed across any architecture including JSP/HTML through to Ajax and Java, on any JEE/Java, PHP, or .NET servers, and via the Web or the desktop. Data can be displayed in multiple ways.
Maintain: The new centrally managed code base now supports all users, whatever their client configuration and network connection type, to reduce application maintenance time and costs. This is done through ASP solutions.
The extraction process in step one allows Nexaweb to obtain every element of the business logic buried in the legacy system. Often enterprises are faced with systems that no one remembers how to maintain. I experienced this with a telecom that was running an old version of a mission critical content management system that the software company, itself, did not have anyone who knew how to support. So there is added benefit from going through this process, as David said, “They are able to discover and liberate IP that has been held hostage in the bowels of legacy applications.” This discovery can be the starting point for transformation, another example of enterprise 2.0.