DevOps and Legacy Systems

Does legacy software mean an organisation can’t adopt DevOps? Absolutely not.

The answer to this question in our mind is a resounding “No!”.

Does implementing DevOps in an organisation still running old or legacy systems make things more challenging? Absolutely. But there’s a beauty to the challenge. By having to take the time needed to get an older system working under a new DevOps toolset, you’ll grow to understand your tools more deeply and be better equipped for any further work undertaken.

So what should you remember when considering DevOps and legacy systems?

DevOps isn’t an all or nothing approach

Want to only automate a tiny part of the development process at first? No problem!

Continuous Integration not possible with the software you’ve got? That’s okay too.

Part of DevOps is to understand your tools and systems and see what you can and can’t achieve.

There’s nothing stopping you porting parts of your legacy system on to a more modern toolset. You might port the project from an older version control system into your new, shiny Git version control system. And your build pipeline might be as simple as calling some bash or batch scripts. If you can do more? Great! You can also tackle DevOps in stages, with some teams preferring to build tasks around porting legacy systems into new tools into their Sprints.

Define and understand the business benefits

Got an old legacy system that only works if you build it on Windows 95? How far off retirement is the system?

If this system is likely to outlast us all, it’s probably a good candidate for getting some DevOps attention. Whereas if the system is in the process of getting retired, there’s probably not much point in trying to update the toolset. Where DevOps effort is placed should always be a case of understanding hair loss where the biggest business benefits will come from.

That tiny system someone wrote years ago but isn’t used much? Maybe not the first candidate.

If it’s a core system that we’re working on every day? It’s probably a great idea to make life easier.

DevOps is a cultural shift

When looking at adopting DevOps strategies and processes at an organisation, it’s always worth remembering that there is an enormous change management process attached to the exercise. It isn’t as simple as dropping a couple of tools on your team and walking away. It’ll take a lot more than that to make it stick.

Not only will you be asking operations and development to be working closer together, you’ll be asking your team to learn new tools and change their mindset when approaching a problem. Rather than starting development from day one, you might need to plan the DevOps tooling at the same time as the solution architecture. It’s a shift to start thinking of automation around your development and build processes up front rather than once the system is already built or being built.

Gradually your team will start asking the golden question of “How can I automate this?”. At this point, you’re well on your way to making it.

Like any major organisational change, your team will need time to adopt and adapt to this change. At first things are likely to not go smoothly and require some refinement. But over time, your team should start to develop a “DevOps First” culture that adds to your overall development agility.

Call for Help

Need help understanding how DevOps might apply to your organisation? We’ve got training courses available on DevOps right now. We’re also experts at helping organisation manage and update their processes to incorporate their new-found DevOps practices.