One of the selling points for service-oriented architecture has been that it can give new life to your old applications: Just put a meta data wrapper around your legacy application and, voila, it becomes Web service enabled.
Yet the dirty little secret of SOA is that much of that legacy is too redundant, too costly or too clunky to merit the wrapper.
Hewlett-Packard Co. today took square aim at the legacy market, announcing HP Application Modernization Services. It combines application performance diagnostic tools with consulting services in a program that prioritizes what parts of a legacy environment are worth keeping around for SOA and what parts need to be retired.
"In many cases all these applications came together without any sort of rationale," said Paul Evans, worldwide director for the project. "They never had a plan. They never had a design. They never had an architecture. Some of the applications they'd want to put in this SOA are not ready, they're not fit."
Evans noted that it's become increasingly hard to sell anything to users saddled with massive maintenance overhead, which sometimes chews up 70% of an IT budget.
"There's not enough time or money for innovation in those companies," he said.
Carl Greiner, senior vice president at analyst firm Ovum Inc., argued that SOA will require extensive weeding.
"Some of the old spaghetti code, you can't componentize it," he said. "If people want to reuse the code for SOA, this legacy stuff is not going to work."
Phil Murphy, a principal analyst with Forrester Research Inc., believes the key part of the modernization service is the use of the application performance diagnostic tools. They scour source code and create a database where the cost, reach and effectiveness of each application can be measured.
"CIOs need help figuring out what they have and identifying what they need," he said. "If you put this engine in with the consultants, it gives you a base to work from. You can create a priority list for the projects you need to undertake."
Criticism has been lodged against the SOA movement that it replaces maintenance and product costs with enormous consulting bills, but Terri Schoenrock, SOA director for HP Services, stated that migrating from legacy to SOA is a common pain point in the marketplace.
"It's about technology transfer, and you have to figure out how you're going to achieve that," she said.
Greiner believes re-hosting and re-engineering have become necessities.
"It's going to take a forklift to get a lot of this done," he said.
Murphy expressed hope that a larger chunk of legacy systems can be wrapped, particularly mainframe applications, and become participating pieces inside an SOA, but even that will require a lot of blood, sweat and money, putting HP squarely into what he believes will be a "white-hot" market for the next few years.
"Companies have been putting this off for more than a decade," he said. "It's time to clean out the basement."