In a previous post, I explained application modernization must become the information technology (IT) prime directive in order for IT departments to satisfy the speed and agility business requirements of their organizations. An excellent point raised in the comments of that post was that continued access to legacy data is often a business driver for not sunsetting legacy applications.
“I find many legacy applications are kept alive in read-only mode, i.e., purely for occasional query/reporting purposes,” explained Beth Breidenbach. “Stated differently, the end users often just want to be able to look at the legacy data from time to time.”
Gordon Hamilton commented that data is often stuck in the “La Brea Tar Pits of legacy” applications. Even when the data is migrated during the implementation of a new application (its new tar pit, so to speak), the legacy data, as Breidenbach said, is often still accessed via the legacy application, which could be dangerous, as Hamilton noted, because the legacy data is diverging from the version migrated to the new application (i.e., after migration, the legacy data could be updated, or possibly deleted).
The actual La Brea Tar Pits were often covered with water, causing animals that came to drink to fall in and get stuck in the tar, thus preserving their fossils for centuries—much to the delight of future paleontologists and natural history museum enthusiasts.
Although they are often cited as the bane of data management, most data silos are actually application silos because historically data and applications have been so tightly coupled. Data is often covered with an application layer, causing users that enter, access, and use the data to get stuck with the functionality provided by its application, thus preserving their use of the application even after it has become outdated (i.e., legacy)—much to the dismay of IT departments and emerging technology enthusiasts.
When so tightly coupled with data, applications—not just legacy applications—truly can be the La Brea Tar Pits for data, since once data needed to support business activities gets stuck in an application, that application will stick around for a very long time.
If applications and data were not so tightly coupled, we could both modernize our applications and optimize our data usage in order to better satisfy the speed and agility business requirements of our organizations. Therefore, not only should we sunset our legacy applications, we should also approach data management with the mindset of decoupling our data from its applications.