5 Ways APIs Accelerate Legacy System Modernization


APIs legacy system modernization

What do bell bottoms and the mainframe computer all have in common? They both gained popularity over 50 years ago, but (hopefully) only one of them is still found in enterprises: the mainframe.

For many enterprises, the mainframe has been a solid performer—one that often still runs critical back-office accounting and ERP applications.

However, to keep up with the ever-increasing volumes of data, requirements for greater performance and scalability, and escalating customer demands—it has become essential to modernize legacy systems and applications like these. Modernization isn’t just for companies running systems from the 1960’s, but any company struggling to keep up with these requirements. It’s critical for being more competitive, accelerating innovation, and keeping costs down.

IT decision-makers agree. In the financial services sector alone, almost four-fifths of operations leaders at North American banks said they must update their technology to drive innovation—or risk extinction.

And as companies are trying to stabilize and adapt to changes resulting from the COVID-19 crisis, modernization has become an important part of increasing agility, reducing costs, and avoiding disruption. 

Disadvantages of Legacy Systems

Legacy systems weren’t designed to support implementing and adopting technologies like big data analytics, mobile, and the Internet of Things, nor were they meant for burgeoning data volumes and types. Also, legacy system interfaces were developed in a world of daily, batch calls and not built for today’s real-time data needs.

Furthermore, for many reasons, the efforts and costs involved in maintaining and supporting legacy systems can be extraordinary. Studies indicate that maintaining legacy systems and connections can cost an average of 75% of IT budgets in mature organizations, sapping time and budget from innovation projects.

Moreover, legacy systems aren’t ready for change. Today’s demands and challenges require fast adaptation and rapid change—not lengthy projects and implementations. Data and systems must be accessed, improved, and adapted continuously. 

APIs Ease Legacy Modernization

Typically, organizations may think they only have two options when it comes to legacy system modernization: 1) rip out their old systems entirely and replace them with new ones, or 2) start writing custom code to connect systems.

The first is difficult to justify the expense and time. The second seems feasible—but only if the organization is connecting two or three systems.

In reality, the average enterprise is looking at connecting at least 65 applications and systems, and point-to-point integrations are difficult to implement and maintain, not to mention introduce system vulnerabilities.

APIs are one of the most efficient ways to modernize legacy systems. Instead of having to code fragile connectors for every application, creating intricate interdependencies that render the organization less flexible, APIs provide a reusable way to connect and integrate multiple systems. APIs unlock data from legacy systems, compose data into processes, and can deliver the experiences users and customers want.

But when it comes to legacy modernization, here are five ways using APIs can accelerate the process.

    1. Orchestrating services. In any organization, it’s likely that there are several legacy systems that could be combined for a higher-level composite service. APIs open up the data and connect the systems. Because they’re reusable, they can be deployed across several systems quickly to create the service. For example, a healthcare organization could pull together several backend systems, then create a Web services application to allow patients to schedule appointments or view lab results.

    1. Transforming data. Legacy system formats don’t always play well with newer services and applications. APIs apply logic to the formats, including CSV, COBOL copybook, or EDI, to make them compatible with formats like SOAP/XML, REST, or JSON so that data from legacy systems can be used in new applications.

    1. Transport protocol negotiation. APIs provide transport protocol negotiation to send data between legacy transports like file-based applications, FTP, SMTP, or proprietary messaging and contemporary HTTP protocols.

    1. Mediation. APIs can provide support for multiple interfaces. This lets companies support multiple versions of a service for backward-capability or allows multiple channels to use the same underlying component implementation. For those that are using multiple channels on one component implementation, it could involve providing multiple interfaces to the same legacy interface, as well as a standards-compliant interface. APIs underpin this using business logic to appropriately categorize the data so it appears in each interface the same way.

    1. Non-functional consistency. APIs can provide new secure channels, including authentication and authorization, for those consuming legacy services outside the organization. For example, a company that previously only allowed internal users to view shipping data can use an API to expose the data to trading partners.

The result of using APIs is that legacy systems can be modernized faster with these reusable bits of code that are discoverable across the organization. Reusable means that the business logic embedded into the API (for example, mapping order status) is the same no matter what application you use it for connections. APIs can be used to connect legacy systems with newer applications and services, including cloud-based services, while still securing sensitive data.

For organizations struggling with legacy modernization, it’s time to explore about how APIs can accelerate the transformation to a modern, agile enterprise. For more information, explore this white paper from our partner, MuleSoft. 

How APIs can modernize legacy systems

About the Author

Lori Angalich

Lori Angalich is the VP of Marketing at Lightwell. She enjoys exploring new technologies and business models, learning how things work, solving problems, and developing new ideas with others. She has a Bachelor of Science and an MBA in Marketing, and she enjoys applying her knowledge from both each and every day.  Lori has a passion for travel, art, wine, music, wildlife (including her two dogs, who are a bit on the "wild side"), and most of all, creating great memories with her family. 

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