Interfacing Legacy Systems Safely

Jacqui Brodin - 15/06/2021
Outsystems can assist in the integration of legacy applications. Using OutSystems you can modernise the customer experience, provide additional functionality, even deploy a mobile app without compromising security of backend systems or data. 

Hopefully with the net outcome of more engaged customers and relieving pressure on the application modernisation effort.

So how do we access legacy business logic?

We can deploy a modern application or mobile app with OutSystems, but how do we do this without compromising the organisations cyber security. OutSystems takes data security very seriously and has made this process simple. There are two types of OutSystems installations: on-premise and cloud-based solutions. On-premise solutions are internal, and given they live inside an organisations firewall, will not introduce additional security risk as you have full control of the environment. Cloud-based solutions reside on an OutSystems hosted server and, because integration to your backend systems travels over the internet, can introduce more risk.

However, there is an established way to secure integration from Cloud-based systems to internal applications and data. A site-to-site virtual private network (VPN) connection can be set up between your internal network and the OutSystems internal network from OutSystems Lifetime. This is a cost-effective use of technology. It is the same technology that geographically diverse offices in a large organisation utilise to give the appearance of being on the same network. A VPN tunnel allows traffic from one end to the other and blocks attempts to intercept traffic from the outside. The information that is exposed between the sites can be as specific as a single port on a single IP address. This mechanism gives the appearance that your cloud-based OutSystems application is on your internal network and, once again, your internal IT department can control exactly what the OutSystems traffic can access. Once you have a secure connection to OutSystems, database connections as well as exposed REST or SOAP services can be readily accessed as though they were on the same network.

How does this help?

Now that you have connectivity to your internal systems, you have a wealth of options. If much of your business logic is stored in database stored procedures, exposing the database port to the OutSystems VPN will allow these to be executed within OutSystems using an advanced aggregate. Perhaps your legacy application accesses an internal SOAP or REST web service. Exposing the service port to the OutSystems VPN will allow the OutSystems application to consume the web service. As long as you can encapsulate the business logic in an internal web service, exposing this to the VPN Tunnel will allow the OutSystems applications to utilise your existing logic without the users being aware they are actually accessing the legacy code.

A new user interface is a quick win and the visual transformation can make a significant difference to the perception of the application within the business. By accessing your business logic from the OutSystems platform, creating a new user interface is a simple task. You can utilise the standard user experience design templates and features available within OutSystems to ensure you improve the customer experience. Splitting the modernisation of a legacy system into smaller projects, i.e. refreshing the user interface first, can assist with the budget approval process and will reduce the risk to your business.

The use of the exposed existing business logic within OutSystems could be further extended to allow the creation of a mobile application version of your software. It is even possible to selectively expose individual components or features of your legacy software to be combined into a cut-down mobile application. The power and choices in this space lie entirely with you. With a significantly shorter development pathway, since you only have to design the mobile front end, your organisation could produce a mobile application that leverages your existing legacy knowledge base in a fraction of the time it would have taken to create the mobile application from scratch.

Both an updated front end and a new mobile application would be utilising your existing business logic and knowledge base. This brings with it the added advantage of any changes to the shared legacy code being immediately reflected in both your new front end and your new mobile application. This is an extremely powerful feature and has the benefit of extending the capabilities of the OutSystems platform far beyond its original design.

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