Replacing a Legacy System: Part-1

Legacy applications are like “First Love”, really hard to let-go! Whilst, it’s an up-hill task to replace them, there are multifarious reasons why replacing a legacy application is beneficial. Here are few reasons that are critical and deciding factors for replacing legacy applications.

  • Cost or Cost-Effectiveness

This is a prime factor for replacing legacy systems. Major chunk of money goes into maintaining the applications and without debate, any organization would have to do so; but is it worth maintaining an app with almost obsolete technology. If I were a CFO, I shall always ask “What ROI does supporting my current app bring vs replacing it with new one?”. Whilst, replacement cost of the legacy application is lower than maintaining it, hence it’s a desirable action in this direction.

  • Integration Challenges

Legacy systems do not always integrate well with the latest technology systems and integration-pain via custom-written apps is more than replacing the entire system. In the era of IOT (and ubiquitous computing) where all devices communicate with each-other and integration is seamless, it makes more sense of adapting the new technology and replacing the old ones.

  • Productivity

Productivity is another enabler in replacement of legacy systems. As basic definition of business changes from product-centric to customer centric, use-case have become more complex. Legacy systems have been doing the heavy lifting (amending and sustaining) at the price of productivity (cost and time). New technology and apps have configurable business-rule-engine, that enhances productivity and makes the process of future adaption more sublime.

  • Laid-back Decision Making

Decision Making has been a challenge while using legacy application because, accessing data and churning out meaningful insights (data analytics) require a separate decision making system. Data from the legacy has to be transformed and refreshed into the decision making system coupled with reporting solution for presentation. Business stake-holders always took “reactive” decisions based on the historic trends (or incidents in terms of security). With the advent of bleeding-edge technology and in-memory data processing, stake-holders are in a position to take pro-active decisions (also mitigate timely risks in terms of security)

Now that you understand WHY legacy applications should be replaced; In my next blog, I shall try to list down important technical challenges that we overcome for smooth replacement.

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Application Tuning vs Database Tuning

Recently, there was a debate when application developers and database developers were in tussle and pointing fingers on each other for a pity performance issue 🙂

Here are few pointers over the debate and little initial development:

  • Application Developer: There is poorly performing query when being executed from the application. Database developer’s needs to analyse and fix it.
  • Database Developer: The query when executed from database works fine and provides relevant results quickly.
  • Database Administrator: Query pulled from the plan cache – goes for a full table scan and parameterized. There are indexes defined on the predicates, but they are not getting picked-up!

This is what developers saw when executing the query from management studio.

DeveloperPlan

This is the execution plan generated when query is executed from application.

ApplicationPlan

Clearly, looking at highlighted operators in the plan, we can figure out that query executed by application goes for a Clustered Index Scan as opposed to Clustered Index Seek.

Why this difference?

It boils down to the parameterization datatypes!!!!

Application developer passed one parameter of “String” type in the filter predicate, which had a column of type VARCHAR. And SQL Server created a parameter of type NVARCHAR by default for any “String” literal. Hence, to match data type on both side of an equivalence operator, the column with VARCHAR datatype is implicitly converted to NVARCHAR. If we hover over the clustered index scan operator, we will see CONVERT_IMPLICIT being used to perform the conversion task (see highlighted below).

ApplicationScan

On the other hand, when the same query is executed from management studio, query uses Index Seek as no implicit conversion is required.

DeveloperSeek

Possible application fix: Application developers should describe parameter types which gets passed in the query. In NET APIs parameters can be described by using SqlParameter class, that contains not only for parameter name and value, but also for parameter data type, length, precision, and scale.

 

References:

How data access code impacts database performance
SqlParameter Class