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Mobile devices vs. legacy software

The move to smart devices can’t be stopped. That means new opportunities for developers, especially in transaction processing and payments. But, don’t lose sight of the legacy applications that drive many of those transactions.

By 2018, consumers in mature markets will expand, rather than consolidate their device portfolio, resulting in the use of more than three personal devices, according to researcher Gartner’s “Predicts 2016” report. In a separate report, Gartner expects that by 2018 a majority of users will, for the first time, turn to a mobile device for all of their online activities. Yes, Gartner says “all.”

Do all of your online activities from a smartphone or tablet, and you’re essentially turning away from desktop technology. For developers it means interface design, data integration, transaction processing, and querying home-automation devices via the Internet rather than just the local in-home Wi-Fi setup.

Two key concerns, according to cloud consultant Judith Hurwitz are scalability and compliance. Apps on the mobile device, and the corresponding back-end server processing and data serving must be capable of scaling to peaks that might seem unrealistic, she says. Compliance becomes increasingly important. It might an a portal app for managing a patient-physician relationship or filling prescriptions through an online pharmacy. It could be placing equities orders with an online broker. Eventually, it will be interacting with your car’s diagnostics system.

Without a doubt, the rush to these new technologies is on. Developers are learning new skills and new languages. Analytics is an increasingly big part of dealing with big data. Despite this, we should not lose sight of systems that have been running at corporations for years and even decades. “Old software never dies,” Hurwitz says.

It’s an excellent point. Batch processes, such as monthly statement rendering programs at banks, can go untouched for what seem like eternity. Updated only to reflect the appearance of printed statements (my bank recently added color and changed typefaces), the underlying logic can go for decades without being touched. The original programmers may have long since retired or died, yet these applications (we used to call them programs) remain vital. And, there may no financial gain for the business in throwing old, fully functional applications on the scrap heap.

Sure, new technologies to support the Internet of Things are vital. Learning Apache Spark for big data streaming, Hadoop for distributed data processing, or Docker for containerization are vital for today’s work (and tomorrow’s). It’s also prudent not to lose sight of where a lot of corporate data remains.