Living with legacy: ESB helps

One of the best and funniest presentations (on technology) I’ve seen in the last couple of years was on SharePoint 2010 Search, done at the SharePoint 2010 Connections conference in Amsterdam earlier this week by Richard Taylor (I suspect he’s a stand-up comedian and not an architect :-)).  His argument was that “findability” is what’s important. Throwing search at everything is not going to solve your problems, but probably even making it worse. He’s a great proponent of “nuking” the archive and starting from scratch. Although very funny, and making life much easier, I think support of legacy information and systems is something that us IT folks will have to live with for the rest of our lives and beyond.

It was in the UK a couple of months ago, where I learned that one of the largest insurance companies in Europe actually finally pulled the plug from their ancient WANG computer only recently. The only way they were able to keep the thing running (actually serving a quite heavily used, core-to-the-business application) was by ordering the spare parts on eBay the last couple of years! Legacy is the diesel engine of the IT world.

I’m currently architecting an integration solution for a large retailer who’s WMS (Warehouse Mangement System)/ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system is also acting as the integration layer between more than 10 other supporting applications. The goal is to replace the WMS/ERP functionality with Dynamics and replace the integration functionality with the Microsoft ESB: BizTalk Server. This is where an ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) is actually at its best: environments with lots of applications and an ever changing integration landscape. Much flexibility is needed here!

The ESB implementation for this customer will help them achieve their short term goals (replacing the ERP/WMS) and put them in a much better position to provide more sophisticated composite application functionality such as their portal for their (> 200) shop managers. The ESB enables the continued use of legacy applications and also makes it possible to phase out these applications at a right-for-the-customer pace.

Nuking legacy would be nice, however not realistic in the real-world… ESB helps us cope with it though.

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