The Legacy Environment Challenge
IT management seems simple enough — in a vacuum. But the trouble is nobody has a technology vacuum unless you are a virgin start-up with no legacy systems in place. Most companies however, don’t have the luxury.
Most organizations are in fact burdened by a slew of legacy systems and if you are a hospital or insurance company, you could still have databases dating back to the 60s and 70s. When it comes to monitoring, this presents even larger obstacles.
So says Nicole Sullivan, a web architect and blogger at Stubbornella, in an interview with Mac Slocumb as part of the Velocity Profile Series. For Sullivan trying to manage the older systems while instituting a new one is particularly tricky.
“The balance between keeping the legacy running and managing to do improvements, until the legacy can be removed, is probably the hardest problem. And it happens on almost every project,” Sullivan said in the Velocity Profile interview.
And Sullivan knows from whence she speaks. She’s worked on some major projects over the years helping the likes of Facebook and Box solve problems, which she linked to the CSS. In Facebook’s case it was huge for CSS and it was having a big impact on performance. She says by working out the human issues behind the coding problems, she was able to solve the issue.
And that’s the tricky part of performance issues. What exactly is causing your problem? Sullivan said that Box also had issues related to a messy CSS, and when she helped them resolve those issues, many other performance issues settled into place.
The question is how do you find that key problem that can help resolve the major issues you might be having around performance on your site. The challenge for sites like Facebook and Box is that their sites may work fine for a time, but as they scale every upward by adding new users, performance can lag, and as a monitoring pro, you are charged with finding one or two trigger issues from a universe of possibilities.
Perhaps that explains why someone with Sullivan’s unique skill set is in high demand in Silicon Valley to solve these issues. Not surprising, she considers untangling CSS like she did for Box and Facebook to be her special strength.
For IT pros, whether it’s a monitoring issue or layering a new system on top of an old one, the legacy issue Sullivan brought up particularly rings true. Trying to make these old systems compatible with the new ones represent a huge challenge and figuring out which of the systems might be causing a glitch is even more difficult, the more complex the environment.
Photo by cmnit on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.