'Risky' legacy government IT

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UK systems integrator, affini, has commented on the National Audit Office (NAO) finding that ninety per cent of the UK central government's revenue-generating services, worth £480 billion, are running on legacy IT. The NAO warns that this exposes the government to an array of risks, including hardware or application failure; increased costs through vendor lock-in and new cyber threats.

affini works with enterprises to manage the life cycle of complex IT infrastructure and communication systems.

Shane Colombo, Director of Projects at affini, said: "The legacy IT issues highlighted by the National Audit Office are not confined to the public sector. We have worked with enterprises experiencing exactly the same issues in the banking sector; media; transport and aviation, where custom applications have been built on top of old mainframe-based infrastructure. As hardware and software are upgraded, organisations are forced to redevelop these bespoke applications, in order to preserve vital business functions such as ERP, payroll, CRM and financial transaction processing. Unless the organisation has created an application roadmap and identified all of the business functions that are dependent on individual apps, they find themselves caught in a replacement cycle which can end up being three times more costly than their initial projection."

Colombo references an affini customer that discovered there were seven hundred custom apps that fed into its ERP system. Each time the vendor's software was updated, all of the apps had to be refreshed, trebling the upgrade costs. After conducting a roadmap exercise, the customer moved to a cloud-based system to remove the option for IT staff to customise apps.

"Most mainframe apps in the 1980s provided far more functionality than organisations required. During migration projects, affini advises CIOs to assess precisely what functionality their business needs, to identify whether there are off the shelf applications that can deliver the same functionality. Our advice is always to look for off the shelf apps, or to move to the cloud to remove the ability to customise apps."

Colombo warns that, in addition to the mainframe app issue highlighted by the NAO, organisations that have developed bespoke applications running on Windows XP need to be planning their migration programme now, ahead of the 8th April 2014 deadline, when Microsoft plans to end support for the operating system:

"In most enterprises that we work with, the application refresh programme takes fifteen to twenty four months to complete. Organisations that are still running on Windows XP are likely to be dependent on custom apps for business-critical functions. When Microsoft ends support for XP in April 2014, these organisations will be forced to engage in a costly migration of all the apps built on top of the old OS. They need to start now."

affini developed the TRM technology roadmap tool to assist customers in managing the evolution of their IT infrastructure, enabling CIOs to decide whether to retain, change or replace legacy hardware and applications. Last week affini launched BootHawk, a software tool that helps enterprises to drastically reduce boot up times, by measuring and displaying all of the startup processes running on thousands of Windows desktops and pinpointing where performance can be improved. The tool was developed to assist a 27,000 employee organisation that was experiencing boot up times stretching to an hour and a quarter. By allowing the CIO to identify and cull unnecessary processes and user policies, BootHawk helped to reduce bootup times from 75 minutes to 4 minutes, saving the organisation up to £32,000 a day.


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