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In 2015, Paris Orly airport was forced to close for several hours after the failure of the computer system linking the airport’s air traffic control systems to the French weather bureau. The system was running on Windows 3.1, which was released in 1992 and which Microsoft stopped supporting in 2001. At the time, there were only three specialists in Paris who could maintain the system, and one of those was about to retire. The French transport minister promised to begin work on upgrading the system.

Legacy software is a problem for many organisations, though hopefully not with such newsworthy consequences. Organisations know that modernisation means moving their apps to the cloud but can easily get stuck. The legacy application, as it is, cannot simply be lifted and shifted to the cloud. For example, if the database server is hosted in an office somewhere, the latency would be awful, and the experience will suffer.

Cloud-facing Legacy Apps

On the other hand, re-writing the application or migrating to a modern application is a daunting task that is expensive, time-consuming and tempting to postpone. However, doing nothing means the problem gets worse. You will fall further behind cloud-native market entrants and more agile competitors, losing customers and market share and increasing the risk that the legacy system undergoes a catastrophic failure.

However, there is an intermediate step that we have used with several of our clients. A tool like VMware Horizon can ‘stream’ the app from our Private Cloud Platform to end users, which makes it cloud-facing, or cloud-like, but without the application’s source code being touched.

While there are several tools that can carry out this function, we opt to use Horizon because it has various protocols for optimising and improving traffic flow so that latency doesn’t bring the connection down. This makes it easier for end users to work from a train, for example, providing a better experience than with a VPN. With one client, a financial services company, using VMware Horizon to stream their applications enabled them to provide a modern solution to keep customers happy while they spent time re-writing the entire app. It offered a step in the right direction while they worked on a more permanent solution.

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Time saving for IT

Using a VDI solution like Horizon for application streaming is a great solution for users who need to access some central apps but do most of their work on their local machine, so a full-blown hosted desktop isn’t a good fit.

Often, once an organisation makes this move for one application, they will realise that there are candidate applications that could benefit from the same cloud treatment. The good thing is, it’s easy for the IT Team to add a new app to Horizon. The next time a user logs into Horizon, they’ll see the new app alongside their existing ones.

Each of these apps is served by a central farm of servers, in our case a Managed Private Cloud environment. The IT department only has to install (and subsequently update) the application centrally, taking away the hassle of remote installs, license keys or persuading users to install an application locally themselves.

As VMware specialists, we see this as an obvious first step for organisations that want to get a head start on their cloud migration without requiring their customers and other users to change behaviour. It gets your legacy system into the cloud while you get a purpose-built version onto the runway and into the air.

If you’re looking to take the first step on your application modernisation journey, get in touch with our experts today.

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