How Great Companies Approach Changing APIs and Legacy Systems

by | Oct 14, 2020

It’s easy to think of APIs as a static thing. Build it and you’re done. Right? In reality, it isn’t always that simple. Due to evolving technology and open standards, such as the Financial Data Exchange for open banking, app developers often need to change things on the fly. In an integration, APIs need to be fluid.

Let’s say there’s an update for an application requiring a new field in your legacy environment. This may seem like a simple addition. However, if there’s no room for the new field, it requires an update to the whole ecosystem.

We’ve been working in the legacy IT space for a long time. Here’s what great companies are doing differently than average ones.

They Make Sure to Handle the Complexity of Their Legacy Environment

One of the world’s largest airlines uses our mainframe integration tool, Ivory, to handle the complexity of their maintenance system. Imagine the complexity of an airline maintenance system and the importance that absolutely nothing goes wrong. Handling this level of complexity for mission critical applications is non-negotiable. It gets even more complicated after a company merger.

With hundreds of APIs running, any change made to their legacy environment has the potential to cause chaos. For example, if the FAA adds a requirement for additional info on a new airplane and there’s no space to add it in the system. This seemingly simple change could break the whole integration.

Based on the complexity of your environment, one simple update like adding a new field could take days or weeks to create, test, and deploy to the live environment. However, using a powerful integration tool your team can make updates in the studio and deploy them into the integration faster. The ability to adapt quickly to the real world is what separates average companies from great ones.

In fact, the complexity of your legacy environment is maintained and protected by the integration tool. It’s essentially a runtime environment that manages all of the translation back and forth from the mainframe through REST or SOAP APIs.

One of the challenges with mainframe integration is the tight coupling between legacy applications and the mainframe. An integration workflow engine allows users to orchestrate transactions between multiple systems within a single API call. Package up the complex information and business logic in your legacy systems to protect them from possible breaks.

They Give Themselves the Freedom to Make Changes Quickly

Indeed, great companies do not let the limitations of their legacy systems govern their future. They prioritize the need to grow and change rapidly. They don’t get stuck thinking in terms of what’s possible versus what is best.

Often, the ability for a company to respond to rapid legacy system changes is limited by the complexity of the environment, a skill shortage, or a lack of understanding about the scope of the legacy environment.

Using an integration tool, there’s no need to write a new program or move an existing program all over the place. With the complexity of the legacy environment already handled by a mainframe integration tool, make changes easily.

For example, a bank could create a single API for an action such as “Get Customer Info.” This one API could retrieve several pieces of info normally locked away in the legacy environment such as savings account, checking, credit card, mortgage, etc. If the bank decides to later add FICO score or interest rate to the “Get Customer Info” API,  the change is easily made through the integration tool. Even if the request requires information from a third party or external software, it’s easily done.

Of course, automated testing or regression testing still needs to take place, but it can be started much sooner. What typically takes 3-4 days to iron out before testing begins, could take half a day.