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OMG at work on legacy transform spec

The Object Management Group’s (OMG) Legacy Transformation PSIG scheduled meetings in London recently where the agenda included plans to release the first new set of OMG standards for transforming legacy software.

“People have been trying to sidestep this thing for years, and they’re finding that they can no longer sidestep it,” said William Ulrich, president of the Soquel, Calif.-based Tactical Strategy Group Inc. and co-chair of the PSIG. “With all the integration technologies, new development tools and techniques, and languages and platforms, they’ve got to address it head on.”

This effort, according to Legacy PSIG co-chair Djenana Campara, founder and CTO of Klocwork Inc., Ottawa, expands the definition of “legacy” well beyond its customary limits.

“Legacy, for some people, is mainframe software only, but that’s not the case. Legacy software is, as we like to say, ‘written yesterday,’” said Campara, noting that newer apps can actually be harder to work with, given the common practice in the 80s and 90s of releasing semi-finished prototypes into the wild. “No structure, no rules. When you start analyzing it, is just unbelievable,” she noted.

The first step is to reverse-engineer the software and create a legacy knowledge meta model, which Campara said can be addressed by the first set of standards in what is expected to be a lengthy and ongoing project. It’s a seemingly odd process, but according to another legacy expert, it is an inevitable one, given the shift that has already occurred from “greenfield” development to the maintenance of legacy apps.

“What we are doing is pretty much looking in the future: How do you make organizations that deal with existing code as agile and as capable as any organization that has new code?” said Nikolai Mansurov, chief scientist at Klocwork. “We are addressing a big gap between methodologies and tools that are available for developing new software — for example, the OMG MDA — and the total lack of tools and methodologies that help you to be successful with your existing code.”

Which, for many, can be just as rewarding as taking a new socket wrench set to that old Hemi in the garage.

“I think it’s exciting because they can actually go back and take a look at this, and start to say, ‘Here’s where the value is,’” said Ulrich. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

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