How Low-Code Development Transforms Legacy Software Migration

How Low-Code Development Transforms Legacy Software Migration
Roland Hörmann
Low-Code Development Transforms Legacy Software Migration

Traditional legacy system migration is a complex, costly endeavor. Low-code platforms can reverse-engineer data models, reuse code, and build efficient template-based UIs that take the fear out of migration and deliver flexible modern applications in a fraction of the time.

By Roland Hörmann, CEO of SIB Visions

Legacy software systems are imposing beasts. They are big, unwieldy monoliths tied deeply into the core of enterprise operations, with code that has sometimes been running for decades. Companies are often scared about the cost of migration, the time and resources it will take, and how this kind of massive, protracted project will affect the health of the business.

As a result, they continue to feel trapped within legacy systems, maintaining them for years on end despite the myriad challenges—from compliance issues to security vulnerabilities—that crop up the longer you keep the software running past its prime. Low-code development tools can dramatically change this equation, and give enterprises the opportunity to finally escape this vicious legacy cycle.

Traditional Migration vs. Low-Code Migration

There are any number of reasons that might push your organization over the edge to finally overhaul your legacy system. Maybe the security risks in running outdated software have become too great, or you got hit with a data retention fine because your legacy software couldn’t fully comply with GDPR. Maybe you just can’t find enough motivated and skilled developers to work on your old technology stack.

Once you make the decision to migrate once and for all, it’s time to lay out a strategy in which your progress on the technical front proceeds in lock-step with your budget and business timeline.

Let’s say you have an application with 1,000 screens. A select number of those are complex screens with numerous elements that are core to the app’s functioning. Those screens will take a significant amount of time and care to migrate, regardless of the process used, but they’re only a small percentage of the overall codebase. The key to a timely migration is ensuring a fast, efficient migration for those small and medium screens that comprise the bulk of the application.

The traditional approach is to either throw everything away and start from scratch or to build integrations between your legacy system and new application. Low-code platforms don’t need to be as absolute. You can try to use as much of the legacy code as you can without hampering the flexibility and quality of your revamped application. At a minimum, you want to reuse the data model and port the data you cannot throw away. This is a tricky balance because you want your core systems to work without too many costly code rewrites and manual fixes, but you don’t want your “new” system to turn into another obsolete legacy system before too long.

Using low-code platforms like VisionX, you can reverse-engineer from the existing data model. For each table, an application screen is generated based on the codenames, keys, and types in the data model. In a low-code migration, you can look at the relationship between tables in a dataset and redesign it to what makes the most sense for a given application screen.

This flexible migration process gives developers and IT control over the UI while migrating all the data necessary to ensure you make a decision that works. Some providers call it an intelligent migration, or tout the machine learning at work, but it’s simpler than that. Low-code migration is about understanding the original data model to map out what’s possible in your modern system.

The Low-Code Migration Process

If you are planning out an incremental migration strategy for 1,000 screens of an application and the architecture beneath them, you must begin with a timetable. You must ask how long each step of the migration will take, how much it will cost, and define the most critical development, performance, and usability goals at each step along the way.

It begins on the data model side. In all legacy systems, you’ll find older file-based storage that need to be converted to database storage with other tools. Usually old systems have plenty of good table names and database lists that a low-code platform can leverage to map the data model to the new system.

The problem in traditional migrations is the painstaking process of rewriting or converting those old programming languages data models to a different programming language. Using a low-code platform, you can simply reuse as much of the business logic in the database code as possible, for instance PL/SQL code, and run it the logic in the background. Using this logic can also cut down on time-consuming testing.

However, this approach can be flexible. Another option is to take the legacy code and package REST service on top of them, reusing that logic to build a faster, more nimble better low-code application and build new responsive UIs atop parts of the existing system. These can then be integrated with other applications in the organization such as a CRM tool.

VisionX has out-of-the-box data model features to use the legacy logic combined with screen templates in order to easily generate the UI and bind it to the database. This process can speed up and rebuild legacy applications in 1-3 days or weeks per screen with a smaller team, rather than a protracted rebuild that takes several times longer and months per screen and years in total with a number of large development teams. Step-by-step, you can build new UIs atop the old platform, which has been ported and optimized to keep the best and most important elements of the legacy system. From a user experience perspective, the elements of the application users are interacting with are primarily built with low-code even if much of the backend is still running legacy code.

A Fast, Flexible, and Cost-Effective Migration

The low-code migration process allows organizations to leave behind the parts of the legacy system that aren’t doing the job anymore, and migrate the rest to a better codebase without having to build the rest from scratch.

One perception of low-code platforms is that they are closed systems, but this is a misnomer. The true differentiator of VisionX is that it is completely open, making system migration and third-party integrations easier and more comfortable. While other big low-code providers might define a data model and logic in an XML structure and the UI in another language all running behind a black box, the VisionX runtime environments lets you see the real Java code generated in the background and change it in real time.

This visibility is key. Developers, IT, and other business stakeholders need to understand what the connections are between the data models and UIs during the migration process. The speed and efficient automation of low-code is important, but so is ensuring that everything is working as it should be.

Once you have that comprehensive oversight into the legacy migration process, you can even add legacy UI flourishes that keep veteran users happy. For employees who’ve worked on the same legacy system for decades, and like to enter data into a form in a particular way, low-code migration can reproduce aspects of that functionality within the new UI.

Options are what makes this flexible migration possible, with a low-code platform underneath connecting the dots and keeping the migration proceeding in a timely and efficient fashion. Traditional enterprise migrations can drag on for years, with big teams wasting countless amounts of money while the project stalls and fades completely before the company is forced to start all over again.

Low-code migration focuses development, reduces the manpower and resources needed, and uses the best parts of the legacy application integrated seamlessly into a new system. Of course, if you’re comfortable moving forward completely from your legacy system, you can fully migrate your application to a low-code platform. One of the great benefits of low-code as a migration tool is its flexibility to reuse and integrate code, but building a new application for a full migration is just as easy. Big companies make forward-thinking decisions, but no company wants to think about a legacy migration that will take 2-3 years and run far over budget. Instead, use a low-code platform, task a small team of half a dozen developers, and your new system will be launched into production in a year.

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