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Adopting DevOps for Legacy Systems

For organizations looking to improve the software delivery process through quicker coding, efficient bug fixing, and better testing, DevOps paves the way for an enterprise-wide transformation. Through increased collaboration and shorter development cycles, it enables organizations to drive innovation and value faster while reducing the time (and cost) of failures and rollbacks. 

However, for organizations that still use archaic applications and legacy systems, implementing DevOps can be complicated. For such organizations, embracing certain best practices is the only way to achieve success with DevOps. 

Let’s look at the challenges that legacy systems present for DevOps adoption and how organizations can overcome them. 

Challenges while adopting DevOps for legacy systems

Embracing the world of DevOps to enhance collaboration and improve the quality of software applications has become a global phenomenon. But not all implementations are always practical. For most organizations, legacy systems can come in the way of successful implementation. 

Here are some challenges organizations face while adopting DevOps for legacy systems. 

• Architectural challenges: Most legacy systems were built decades ago, using technology that was, at that time, a niche but is now close to being outdated. Over the years, due to heavy customization, the level of architectural complexity has sky-rocketed – making it difficult for today’s tech-savvy developers to understand and modify it for effective DevOps implementation entirely. 

• Changing the team mindset: If your development team wants to start using DevOps, but your ops and infrastructure teams have dug in their heels – you’re not alone! Teams who use legacy systems are resistant to new technology adoption. This resistance usually stems from the fear of the new knowledge they will have to acquire and the new duties and new responsibilities they will be expected to fulfill. 

• Siloed operations: Organizations that have been using legacy systems from the beginning tend to have several siloed operations that are rigid and inflexible. For such organizations, implementing DevOps across operations that are isolated and poorly integrated impacts the quality and efficiency of intended outcomes. 

• Data access challenges: Legacy systems are also known to present a multitude of data access challenges. Since most traditional systems were built to operate in isolation, they lack integration capabilities that the modern development world demands. Because they are incapable of streamlining the process of data access, they restrict organizations from driving real DevOps value. 

• Different tools used by different teams: Organizations with legacy systems are also infamous for the various tools that the different teams use. Because such organizations are used to operating in silos, ensuring a successful enterprise-wide DevOps implementation that integrates the different tools becomes difficult. 

Best practices while adopting DevOps for legacy systems

Legacy systems are often proprietary, with siloed modules, unappealing user interfaces, and poor data integration. Therefore, they present several challenges as compared to newer systems that are far more flexible and easier to modify for DevOps implementation. 

If you want to achieve success with your DevOps implementation – despite using legacy systems – you should consider embracing some of these best practices: 

• Create uniform processes: For organizations that are submerged in legacy code and systems, creating uniform processes and practices for communication, collaboration, and continuous feedback can ease out the DevOps implementation process in a big way. Such uniformity can help instill a sense of governance while enabling teams to be aware of their roles and responsibilities. 

• Adopt automation: For organizations with legacy systems, the adoption of automation can work wonders. Using automation, you can eliminate the chances of manual error in building new (or refactoring old) infrastructure, and you can also enable Continuous Integration. CI allows you to integrate the work products of individual developers into a central repository, thus improving the process of bug detection and rectification and the development of a high-quality product. Using automation across your build, monitoring, and deployment activities can also quicken the delivery process while allowing you to get maximum from your DevOps initiatives. 

• Shift-left: One of the best ways to enable DevOps for legacy systems is by automating the process of testing. The shift-left practice allows DevOps teams to move testing tasks to the left – as early in the software development process as possible. Such testing helps in improving software quality and also dramatically reduces the costs of fixing bugs. Since developers can focus on quality from the start, instead of waiting for errors and bugs to be discovered late in the process, it enables them to provide feedback and review changes and progress regularly.

• Embrace cultural change: Organizations that are legacy-intensive need a lot more than the right tools and processes for successful DevOps implementation. They need to embrace cultural change to enhance their DevOps outcomes. Adopting the “fail fast, fail often” mantra is a great way to make changes quickly and drive business agility. The ability of teams to learn from failure means the sooner a failure occurs, the sooner learning begins. To succeed, you must overcome the fear of failure that prevents you from moving forward.

• Say yes to Microservices: Making changes to large, monolithic applications is a Herculean task. That’s why taking a microservices-based approach is an excellent way to build applications that are more adaptable to new changes and requirements. Since microservices components are independent of each other, it allows code to be refactored and design decisions to be revisited – far quickly for legacy applications. 

Accelerate deployment quality and frequency

The pace of digital transformation is putting a lot of pressure on software delivery teams to deliver faster. As enterprise agility becomes a top priority to keep pace with market and customer demands, implementing DevOps can enable organizations to build modern applications and make changes quickly and easily.

For organizations with legacy systems, adopting automation, shifting left, embracing cultural change, implementing microservices, and creating uniform processes can help accelerate deployment quality and frequency while consistently meeting user expectations.

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