“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is the slogan of the complacent, the arrogant or the scared. It’s an excuse for inaction…”
―Gen. Colin Powell
One of the more enduring of memories from my childhood has to do with a Philips reel-to-reel tape recorder. My father’s pride and joy, this was the high-fidelity beast that brought to life the heavy bass of The Ventures guitars as well as the subtleties of Begum Akhtar’s thumris, in a way that audio cassettes never could.
Compiling mixtapes was as much a part of my growing up as was learning to dissemble the recorder’s drive mechanism, since its multiple belts tended to melt given Delhi’s scorching summers.
In the 70s and 80s it was possible to get replacements for melted belts, the occasionally blown vacuum tubes, and spool tapes. Later, friends and relatives heading overseas were pushed into carting back the essential supplies.
Of course, a time came when the last set of belts gave up the ghost and the spools turned no more. We found a use for the recorder even then—its amplifier was going strong over 20 years after purchase. It also colored our views on all audio equipment that we encountered for a long while.
It’s quite a bit like the legacy apps and infra that I come across in enterprises all across India. These are systems that were blueprinted and rolled out through an investment of time, effort and not-too-easy-to-come-by funds.
You and your teams put these into place, so I understand that it can’t be easy to let go. These systems are often all about a high order of ‘business-IT alignment’, so I do appreciate that lines of business are reluctant to swap them for a newer, shinier piece of technology.
But, do we really see the true cost of maintaining such apps and systems? Or, the expense of ensuring that we have the people who know about the bells and whistles, as well as about the place that gathers the crud?
Enterprise IT is a work in progress, so why then does it so often require technology providers to announce an end of life for IT teams to consider a migration? And, sometimes not even then.
When I see the enterprise IT’s ‘love’ for legacy I’m reminded of that tape player that still inhabits my parents home over three decades later. It’s sentiment that keeps it there. What’s your reason?