Making IT Lemonade – Out of Lemons

by David Fletcher on April 16, 2014

All too often, the IT environment you’re stuck with is far from ideal. Someone before you picked one system to do one thing, and another person chose a set of applications to take care of another issue. The last guy put half your servers on Linux and half on Microsoft. And of all the things you’ve got, a good share of them don’t play well together. The system has given you a bucket of lemons. You always hear people say “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It may not be easy, but we have some recipes.

Are these the situations you’re facing?

You’ve got a little bit of everything

So you’ve got something from everywhere, and everyone that’s ever come and gone left their mark. The days of the monolithic Microsoft shop are gone, which means you and the rest of the IT staff spend huge hunks of your time just getting everything to work together.

Now it’s your job to make sense of it all. A lot of people probably tell you that you need to streamline everything and settle on one set of applications. But there’s a problem: the people before you tried to do that, too. From now on, you have to find platform-agnostic and highly interoperable solutions. Fortunately, most good modern solutions let you work with what you’ve got, even if the people before you left a mess for you to clean up.

You’ve got aging lemons

Not a lot of people still talk about mainframes anymore. But they’re still there. Although your organization might have gone through a tech upgrade or two, odds are that you’ve still got a few machines hanging around from a long, long time ago. Maybe they’re still working fairly well, and they play vital roles in keeping business operations running smoothly. Maybe you have new mainframes and are running more of your transactions on that platform. That’s not really the issue. The big problem is that the applications you use are still terminal-based ones, and your business continues to rely heavily on them. Also, your terminal interface might be hard for your users to take advantage of, or the applications may not play well with one another.

Modern technologies and solutions can help you connect your old and new resources. Even if you have a mix of old and new mainframes you want to connect with a set of modern end-user machines running Windows 8, the two pieces of technology can still work together. Even if there are decades separating the two technologies.

You’ve just got to add a little sugar

If you’re like most IT professionals, you want the very best technology. You want things to run smoothly, and to give people the mobility and flexibility they want and need. A lot of people nowadays think achieving this means you need cloud capabilities. Often, business users might be asking for cloud applications too, even if they’re doing so just because it’s the latest buzzword. But you probably have an on-premises system and no money to invest in a cloud.

This is where things start to get sweeter. You already have the underlying infrastructure you need in that bushel of lemons you inherited. All you need to do now is add sugar. Certain modern solutions allow you to provide mobile access or a complete service-oriented architecture with the commodity servers, file systems and other solutions you already have in house, which makes your old lemons taste much sweeter.

You don’t get to choose the IT infrastructure you inherit, but you can do great things with it. Maybe you’re looking for terminal emulation so your people can get access to aging mainframes from modern machines. Maybe you’re looking for something that makes your on-premises servers act like a cloud. Maybe you want mobile printing. Whatever the case, you don’t have to go out and upgrade your entire infrastructure. All you need to do is take all the lemons you’ve inherited and make some sweet, refreshing lemonade.

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Is it true that all good things must end? When it comes to enterprise technology, innovation never really ends. Today’s breakthroughs are tomorrow’s obsolescence.

Technology evolves.

Think about the applications, platforms, and processes that powered your business over the years. Many of them are gone, but did their replacements kill them off entirely? Or did they improve upon the same fundamental concepts underlying the old systems?

Right this moment, Microsoft is poised to end support for Windows XP. But perhaps XP’s demise just represents another stage in the evolution of technology. Maybe it isn’t “dying” at all.

Not long ago, we published an infographic chronicling the history of terminal emulation. From the dumb terminals of the 70s to Windows 95, it’s easy to declare obsolete technologies dead. But they didn’t really die. They progressed:

• Lotus 1-2-3 gave way to MS Excel
• WordPerfect handed the reins to Microsoft Word
• DOS handed supremacy to Windows
• Common security gaps closed thanks to affordable anti-virus protection
• Separation between enterprise and consumer tech yielded to BYOD

So, to what operating system should Windows XP give way? We generally recommend the eminently stable Windows 7, but you’ve certainly got options nowadays. What’s important is that you evolve with the times.

For the sake of evolutionary inspiration, we’ll leave you with the infographic:

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