rear-view A reflection on legacy

When legacy systems are stable and keep running, is legacy really a bad thing?

As IT leaders, we like to think our organizations are always on the cutting edge of technology. But the reality is that many organizations still have that one legacy system, the one server that won't die. It sits quietly in the data center, doing its job.

When legacy systems are stable and keep running, is legacy really a bad thing?

In defense of legacy

I recently spoke with the Compiler Podcast, an original podcast from Red Hat Software. Compiler aims to simplify tech for tomorrow's IT leaders.

And with that tagline, you'd think that Compiler would focus solely on current and emerging technology like Kubernetes, containers, and Linux. But Compiler found that many IT professionals have to deal with legacy technology, and fewer IT folks have the skills to keep that running.

From a similar podcast episode last year, Red Hat learned that "younger IT professionals often start their careers working on legacy hardware and software, and upgrades aren’t always an option." Many listeners wrote in to share their story of graduating with a Computer Science degree, having learned modern concepts and frameworks, only to find themselves working with legacy tech.

In a recent episode, "In Defense of Legacy," Compiler started with this statement and question: "The tech industry moves quickly, leaving tech classified as legacy. How can IT professionals starting out learn and grow working on older tech?" It's an interesting question, and one that many IT leaders must answer.

Legacy knowledge can be valuable

I have worked in IT for over 25 years. In that time, I've used a variety of technology that we call "legacy" today. That legacy skill set is sometimes a valuable resource. I shared this story with Compiler:

As a consultant, I recently helped out a client who was running FreeDOS on some industrial equipment. Basically all this had been set up by this person's dad who had passed away, and a key piece of the equipment was running on FreeDOS. And he came in to take over the business and he didn't know how to run this because I mean, DOS? It's 2023. Why would you run DOS?

So we went from - at the beginning of that - not really knowing anything about his specific system and using that knowledge to get to "Now we can figure out what programs run this industrial equipment." And he was then able to start using the industrial equipment again to make parts. (It was a milling machine.)

Listen to the episode

Listen to the full podcast episode at Episode 46: In Defense of Legacy. You can also subscribe to the Compiler podcast for future episodes: