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Learn more about legacy application integration and the best ways to approach it to help your business scale effectively and stay relevant.


What is legacy application integration: Best ways to integrate legacy systems

Posted by Angela Davis on February 26, 2024
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Legacy application integration is one way that modern organizations can ensure they are able to scale effectively and stay relevant in today’s fast-paced business environment.

Integrating legacy applications can give a business the ability to leverage existing legacy investments while benefiting from modern technologies, such as cloud-based applications or mobile apps. 

In this article, we’re going to look at how businesses can optimize their value by seamlessly integrating their legacy systems with modern tools. 

What is legacy application integration?

Legacy application integration is the process of combining legacy software with modern cloud-based apps. The aim is to enable seamless collaboration and smooth functioning.

A common example of legacy application integration is when a company needs to connect an order management system that was developed on older legacy technology with a modern SAP ERP system for hassle-free order processing.

By leveraging SAP integration technologies, such as SAP APIs or middleware, organizations can address legacy application integration problems by establishing standardized methods for connecting legacy applications with their SAP ERP system. 

This enables smooth data exchange, process automation, and seamless integration of legacy systems with modern SAP software.

Lines of green code on a computer

Successful legacy app integration supports several business benefits, including:

  • Improved decision-making. The integration of legacy systems with modern solutions helps to unlock stored data and make the best use of it. While legacy software may have been useful for collecting the data, it’s often not equipped to extract and analyze it to enhance decisions. 

An example is CRM data. If you can harness this information, you can uncover more efficient ways to attract new customers and retain existing accounts, for example creating new marketing campaigns based on historical data patterns for maximum impact.  

  • Access to new functions. Legacy system integration enables businesses to access new functionalities by combining older software systems with modern applications and technologies. 

This type of integration can uncover additional capabilities, which would not be available in legacy systems, and allow businesses to leverage new services or tools to enhance operations. The benefit of legacy modernization is that you don’t have to build anything from scratch. 

  • An effortless learning curve. Many legacy systems aren’t as intuitive as the solutions available today, meaning new employees need to spend longer getting used to them. 

Legacy application integration allows for less reliance on older systems, minimizing the learning curve for new employees and ensuring swifter onboarding. 

  • Cost-effective. Replacing or migrating legacy systems can be expensive and time-consuming. Integration is a cost-effective approach that allows you to leverage existing investments in legacy systems while extending their functionalities and avoiding expensive replacements or migrations.

Application integration problems you might encounter and tips to address them

Potential legacy application integration problems

Despite the benefits, there are some application integration problems you might run into, such as:

A lack of understanding about the integration process 

When stakeholders, including business users, IT teams, and management, don’t have a clear understanding of the integration process, it can result in misaligned expectations. 

For instance, confusion about the scope, timeline, and expected outcomes of the integration project could cause team-wide delays and frustrations. 

In some cases, there’s also a lack of technical knowledge within the organization. Integration projects typically require expertise to design, develop, and implement the solution, so it’s important for businesses to provide training, documentation, and resources to help those involved understand the integration. 

Help from experienced professionals, such as integration consultants or solution architects, can be useful to guide you through this process.

Difficulty in accessing legacy data

Old, static systems often contain valuable data that needs to be integrated with modern applications. Unfortunately, accessing this data can be difficult due to outdated technologies, complex data structures, and a lack of documentation. 

One solution is to deploy data mapping methods. As legacy data may have different structures, semantics, and formats, it’s important to carefully analyze the legacy data and map it to the appropriate format and structure for the modern app. 

Using data transformation techniques, such as data cleansing, data enrichment, and data normalization, is the best way to ensure that your data is accurate, consistent, and compatible with modern applications.

Choosing the right integration solution

To choose the right integration solution for your business, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Integration options. Consider factors like usability, scalability, flexibility, and support for different integration patterns and data formats, as well as pricing. In addition, a solution with a user-friendly interface, comprehensive documentation, and solid support will streamline the integration process and minimize the learning curve for your development team.
  • Scalability and future needs. Your chosen solution must accommodate future growth and evolving integration needs. Seek solutions that can handle increasing data volumes, support new integration patterns, and easily adapt to changing business requirements without requiring significant reworking.
  • Integration complexities. Think about the level of complexity and customization required for your integration needs. Some more complex integration solutions may require extensive customization, but others will offer out-of-the-box features and simplicity. Choose a solution that aligns with your technical expertise and resources.
  • Security and compliance. Security is a crucial consideration when integrating legacy systems with modern applications. Choose a solution that provides strong security measures, such as authentication, authorization, encryption, and auditing, to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and the protection of your sensitive data.

The best ways to integrate legacy systems or applications 

Best ways to integrate legacy systems

Now, let’s look at some of the best ways to integrate legacy systems and apps. 

P2P (point-to-point) integration 

P2P integration is a software integration approach where two systems communicate directly with each other—without the need for a central hub or intermediary. 

In P2P integration, one system sends data or messages directly to another (and vice versa), typically using a specific communication protocol or technology.

P2P integration is often used when two systems need to exchange data or messages simply without complex routing or mediation. 

It can be implemented using various communication methods, such as APIs, web services, message queues, file transfers, or other protocols, depending on the systems involved.

ESB (enterprise service bus) 

An ESB is a software component that acts as a communication hub between different software systems. Operating as middleware, it facilitates the exchange of data and messages between different applications, systems, and services, enabling these to communicate and work together seamlessly. 

Typical capabilities include message routing, transformation, mediation, and security, which enable interoperability and integration between diverse software components.

API (application programming interface)

APIs can play a crucial role in enabling communication and integration between legacy systems and newer applications. They provide a standardized way for different apps, including legacy systems, to exchange data and interact with each other. 

An API integration platform can be used to expose functionalities and data from legacy applications, making them accessible to modern apps for seamless integration.

iPaaS (integration platform as a service)

iPaaS platforms provide a cloud-based approach for the integration of legacy applications with modern apps, systems, and data sources.

Typically offering pre-built connectors and adaptors to connect to a wide range of legacy applications, iPaaS platforms make it easier to establish connectivity and exchange data between systems. 

Integrated legacy solutions made easy with OpenLegacy 

The integrated legacy solutions from OpenLegacy accelerate the deployment of digital services from legacy assets in a matter of days. 

Analysis of legacy systems automatically creates customizable digital assets to facilitate the rapid development of APIs and microservices. 

OpenLegacy makes the integration of legacy systems with modern applications, platforms, and technologies simple thanks to its comprehensive suite of tools, technologies, and services.  

Specializing in legacy application integration and API enablement, OpenLegacy allows organizations to leverage their existing legacy systems, unlocking their data and functionality for use in modern digital services.

Connecting directly to virtually any core system, OpenLegacy helps business leaders cut costs and resources while supporting rapid digital transformation. 


FAQs about legacy application integration

What is an example of a legacy application?

A mainframe application is one example of a legacy application. Run on mainframe computers, these large-scale, monolithic apps have often been in use for decades. They’re typically written in languages such as COBOL.

COBOL is a programming language that was developed in the 1950s for mainframe computers. It continues to be widely used in government and financial institution systems despite having significant challenges, for example, the scarcity of developer resources for COBOL.

As the digital transformation era has continued, newer programming languages, such as Java and .NET, have been developed, and many developers have moved away from COBOL. This has resulted in a shortage of skilled COBOL experts to maintain and update these legacy systems. 

What are three characteristics of legacy systems?

Three characteristics of legacy systems include limited flexibility, lack of documentation, and higher security risks. 

Legacy systems are often monolithic with little flexibility for customization or integration with other systems. Difficulties in integrating them with modern applications, data sources, or APIs, can limit the ability to leverage new technologies, automate processes, or improve overall system efficiency.

A lack of documentation for legacy systems makes it challenging for new developers or IT personnel to understand and work with these systems effectively. 

Finally, legacy systems may have outdated security measures. The lack of modern security features, updates, and patches makes them vulnerable to cyberattacks or data breaches. 

What is the opposite of a legacy application?

The opposite of a legacy application is a modern application, also known as a “greenfield project”.  

A greenfield project refers to a new project or initiative undertaken without constraints or limitations from existing systems, technologies, or infrastructure. 

Greenfield projects are often seen as an opportunity to create new solutions that will meet current needs without being bound by existing limitations. They allow the implementation of fresh ideas, modern technologies, and optimized workflows without having to consider legacy systems or workarounds. 

However, greenfield projects also come with challenges of their own, such as the need to establish new infrastructure, develop fresh processes, and manage potential risks and uncertainties associated with starting from scratch.

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