How a low-code platform can deliver you from legacy

Financial markets are still over-reliant on outdated systems that are kept on life support by an endless succession of integration projects. But what if you could use integration to shrink the functional footprint of these systems until they become simple enough to remain, or be phased out without disruption?

92 out of 100 top banks still rely on IBM mainframes.”

– IBM (2017)

Legacy systems are a thorn in the side of financial markets; some have been around for decades which, as unfit for purpose as they often are, makes them difficult to do without.

The regulatory shortcomings of many legacy systems and their inability to support technological innovation (even the most fundamental innovation of cloud computing) forced financial markets to invest heavily in integrations. In one metaphor, APIs became the pieces of string that held everything together. Forrester1 put it more politely when it heralded the advent of “the API economy”. The “spaghetti architecture” of these integrations (to use another metaphor) does not solve the core legacy problems, because businesses will be writing more and more APIs for as long as the outdated systems remain in place. However, the technology of low-code paves the way for a different integration scenario whereby the functionalities of legacy systems are replaced piece by piece.

An obvious but by no means simple first step is to understand the full functional footprint of the legacy system’s architecture. Having identified all data-feeds flowing upstream and downstream through multiple systems, it will be possible to use modern low-code techniques to create the necessary integration protocols for an efficient IT architecture layout that is robust and efficient without the need for immediate legacy replacement. These feed mechanisms become the gate keeper to protect the legacy systems architecture, encapsulating it and obfuscating its existence. With control of the feeds it is also possible to rapidly replace the user interfaces of these legacy systems, while retaining the core functionality in the legacy stack.

The mitigation strategy should be to steadily shrink the functional footprint, prioritizing functions that the legacy architecture finds challenging. Over time, as the footprint shrinks, the technology debt is reduced, costs become more manageable and agility increases. The legacy IT landscape will then either become simple enough for it to remain, or the task to replace it completely will be much more feasible.

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