“Legacy Platforms” or “Legacy Operating Systems” is a term you commonly hear every nook and corner in the corporate IT sector. But sadly, not in a positive favor. Many CIOs fear that legacy platforms hold back their companies because of the monolithic nature of legacy platforms. In fact, it was surveyed and found by LightStep Inc. in 2018 that 92% of 353 “senior development stakeholders” have their organizations shift into microservices technology from legacy systems by that year. So, passing two years from the study, it is believable the figures have risen rather than dropped with the rapid take-off by cloud, containers, microservices, and serverless technologies.
So, it leaves us the question of whether microservices will put out of service legacy operating systems. Let us look into this context deeper in the article.
Why do companies interest in leaving-back legacy platforms?
Let us take a familiar example to understand the dilemma of legacy platforms and why companies tend to leave behind legacy systems. There are numerous governments and institutions such as the US Department of Defense failing to abandon legacy operating systems like Windows XP. Why?
Windows XP gained wide popularity among consumers as well as businesses lasting for more than 15 years in the market. The key success for Windows XP was its compatibility with a wide range of software and hardware applications since its debut. But, how was it possible for the technology to be compatible with the hosting platform: Windows XP, since such an infant stage? That is because Microsoft could back the technology of that decade, incorporating third-party developers to build compatible software and hardware peripherals. Also, Microsoft could then address the security threats under the hood of Windows XP.
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So, how these strengths of legacy platforms transformed into limitations?
1. Loss of profit against specialized support and maintenance
For example, when Microsoft officially ended supporting Windows XP OS after 2014, Pentagon has to offer multi-million dollar contracts to Microsoft to support their specialized systems running on 3% of the legacy operating systems. Another case is that the UK government has to spend approximately $9.2 million a year only for Windows XP updates. So, legacy platforms are expensive to maintain.
2. Lack of productivity
Legacy platforms delay data delivery to end-user applications. On the other hand, the slower pace of response to customer demands and incompatibility to agile methodologies such as DevOps makes swift system updates inefficient in legacy systems. Therefore, degrading productivity with time.
3. Promotes monolithic architectures
Historically, software vendors wrote applications targeting operating systems. But, as new technologies such as containerization, container orchestration, microservices, and serverless technologies popularized, developers too adopted the new technologies. Therefore, keeping the legacy platforms in limbo.
At the same time, interoperable platform-independent solutions were needed for the scalability and growth of the industry. In contrast, monolithic platforms promote tightly interdependent and coupled systems. Whereas, microservices platforms were easy to evolve and had no need of building up core systems from scratch and did not have the shortfall: single point of failure.
4. Poor Security
Ultimately, when manufacturers no longer support legacy platforms, the user base dissolves. Therefore, the real-time error reports and security loopholes will no longer be reported by the consumers, which is a valuable component for system manufacturers in patching security vulnerabilities. So, the legacy platforms become more and more vulnerable to hackers, malware, and data breaches. This is a high concern issue because a security breach in a platform will open up the doors to fall apart all systems hosted on that platform.
What benefits will microservices bring replacing legacy operating systems?
1. Doubles utilization of infrastructure
Over time, legacy operating systems degrade in resource utilization to the level of 15% to 20%. But, if you break the system into microservices and then pack into VMs using smart placement constraints, you could achieve a utilization greater than 50%.
2. Increase scalability
Scalability is a key feature in microservices that lacked in previous platforms. It was easy to add new functionalities to core systems or to integrate emerging technologies in a microservices platform.
3. Increase engineering agility
When developing core systems in a microservices architecture, sub-teams can work independently. Therefore, the engineering agility in microservices increases the pace of updating and patching platforms. Hence, microservices enable continuous delivery ensuring faster and more frequent releases whilst keeping availability as well as stability.
4. Increase security
The isolated application structure in microservices simplifies security monitoring. In a microservices platform, even if one application exposes to a security threat the other applications could still safely function.
So, let us have a look at how microservices have impacted different vertical markets today.
Vertical markets demanding microservices
- Banking and Finance: Paypal is a company holding a success story after moving into microservices in the banking and finance sector. Increased security through separate identity service, easily manageable API layer, and faster delivery of new features are few among the advantages which the banking sector can reap by transitioning to a microservices platform.
- Media and Entertainment: Netflix, Twitter, and Spotify are giants in the media and entertainment industry who have turned into microservices leaving behind legacy platforms. With the transformation, they could innovate faster and could choose best-in-breed solutions. So, today Netflix approximately handles more than 2 billion edge requests daily via over 500 microservices.
- Healthcare: Zion Market Research says that the global Healthcare microservices market alone will be increased by 5 times by the year 2025 to a worth of $519 million. The figures speak how fast the legacy platforms are being replaced with microservices platforms in the healthcare industry.
- Retail: Walmart was unable to scale its monolith platform to handle 6 million page views per minute and the site was consecutively failing in Black Fridays. Therefore, they transformed into microservices to increase the availability of the site. The results were indeed transformational because they could achieve a 20% increase in conversions, a 98% increase in mobile orders, and could save 40% of computing power. Amazon and eBay also add up into the list of successful retailers who adopted microservices in place of going forward with legacy platforms.
Final thoughts will Microservices replace legacy operating systems
Around two decades back, monolith operating systems were the only option for core systems. But, as shown above, microservices are now popular in large scale vertical markets with successful results. So, it isn’t wrong if we say that the microservices will replace legacy operating systems in any time soon.