The legacy problem has often been viewed as being mainly about the hundreds of millions of lines of COBOL code operating on back room systems of financial institutions, health care facilities, and government agencies. While the legacy problem rose to particular importance with the millennium crisis, in which dating in old code resulted in flaws, the secret of legacy is that it will never go away. Legacy is not just about COBOL, it is an inherent issue of information technology. In areas of early computer use, such as the USA and Japan, legacy may be about COBOL. In other countries, it might be about Visual Basic. In either case, a number of problems are likely to occur:
- Potential for incompatibilities and difficulties in upgrades,
- Security issues, since upgrades may be difficult or impossible, particularly if the code is heavily customized,
- Inability to optimize operation and performance of hardware and software due to legacy components,
- Problems in maintenance, in understanding of the code and the reasons for various operations which have been put into place, and,
- Difficulties in locating expertise and hiring to maintain systems.
Over time, software and hardware can become black boxes. Companies no longer wish to provide resources for updates, no longer have access to certified engineers, or no longer understand how the software was developed or what it was intended to do. The software keeps running; the procedures keep being performed; and all is fine until something changes in the environment that brings the whole mechanism to its knees. That was of course the millennium crisis which required updating of software to incorporate a new dating scheme. This created panic, but it was nothing compared to what it would have entailed had it occurred some years later, when many fewer experienced COBOL programmers were available. Continue reading Legacy’s Big Little Secret