Nexaweb tool reverse-engineers legacy software

Nexaweb Technologies Inc. on Monday released a tool will cut the risk, time and cost of modernizing legacy systems into Web-based applications to better meet evolving business needs, according to its COO.

Although enterprises want to be more agile in the marketplace and adopt new business workflows to leverage the Internet, they are impeded by legacy applications, some of which go back 30 years and are written in older technology like COBOL, Visual Basic, and Delphi, said David McFarlane, Burlington, Mass.-based Nexaweb’s chief operating officer. “The reality is the enterprises literally don’t know how these applications work,” he said.

Businesses very often forfeit modernizing their infrastructures in light of these hurdles, said McFarlane.

The tool, Nexaweb Advance, facilitates various levels in the modernization process including reverse engineering legacy code and capturing it in a standard representation, allowing IT admins to understand how the application actually works.

Besides also identifying redundant code that’s accumulated over the years, the technology allows organizations to compose new functionality and workflow, and design a user interface that, for instance, provides more flexibility and support to end users.

Nexaweb Advance also facilitates secure deployment over the Web.

Transforming an archaic infrastructure into one that supports a Web and services-oriented architecture can help organizations deliver information faster and more efficiently to the knowledge worker, said McFarlane.

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But although enterprises are “unquestionably” gaining more interest in Rich Internet Applications (RIAs), he acknowledged, there are deployment risks specific to RIAs given the different architecture. Compared to a client-server environment, Web-based applications don’t present the same level of control, requiring a different profile for execution, he added.

While the technology is useful across the board, it’s generally sought by industries delivering Web services like financial services, said McFarlane. Telecommunications and the public sector, too, he said find the tool useful. “The appeal is pretty universal.”

There is a trend for RIA application adoption among enterprises as end users demand applications “that are much more interactive that start to move away from the rigid browser interfaces that are much more cumbersome to work with,” said Judith Hurwitz, president of Newton, Mass.-based research firm Hurwitz & Associates.

Of course, legacy infrastructure is not an uncommon thing among enterprises, according to Hurwitz. “If you looked under the covers of just about any larger organization… [you are] always going to find technologies that have just not been updated and been there for along time,” she said. The natural tendency is for organizations to stick with what works and to “fix it up” instead of starting anew, she said, adding that some “have been patched so much, they can no longer be patched anymore.”

The problem, though, is maintenance costs begin to rise and the skills to support the old technology become scarce, said Hurwitz.

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