cobol-legacyOne could make the argument that older systems need to be replaced in order to fall into line with today’s technology. In most cases, older technology is not going to cut it in terms of efficiency, productivity, and cost savings. The business will suffer as a result.

According to some experts, however, legacy systems worked then and are still efficient now—they may need a bit of tweaking, but the foundation is there and can continue to be built upon to get things done.

Ed Airey of GCN argues the second point in his latest article, providing justification for reuse over replacement when it comes to government information systems:

The COBOL programming language is still vital to government efforts to modernize so-called legacy IT systems that consume approximately 70 percent of the federal government’s $82 billion IT budget.  The use of COBOL within government has endured because it’s scalable, efficient, precise and fast, particularly when it comes to high-volume data processing. COBOL systems also contain valuable business processes and intellectual property (IP).

Replacing this core business logic is both costly and risky to the agency. COBOL also has persistently evolved, allowing organizations to bridge their applications to new technologies including .NET, JVM and the cloud.

Such advancements allow government agencies to modernize from a position of strength by reusing, not replacing, core business assets.  This approach also allows for smart use of existing budgetary funds and faster time to market for new functionality and services.  By bridging the old to the new, government can leverage what is truly vital to the organization – the core IP – and begin to map future strategy to new IT architectures, technology and innovation.

There are promising efforts underway to address concerns over COBOL skills development. Through joint efforts between industry and the academic community, more than 350 new COBOL programming courses have been added to university programs.

[Legacy] technologies and systems endure because they work, and work well, and effectively provide the flexibility to innovate and modernize so that agencies can effectively reuse, rather than fully replace, core systems.

For more information about the reuse of legacy programs, see the full GCN article.


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Government Legacy Programs: Reuse vs. Replacement

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