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Simplifying the complexity of maintaining and migrating Telco’s legacy systems

Dejan Talevski, a Senior Project Manager at Seavus’ Telecom Division, explains what kinds of risk Telcos are facing due to the outdated technologies, why they can be an obstacle to the process of digital transformation and what the main benefits of migrating Telco’s legacy systems are.

If you are interested to hear more about this topic, join us on October 26th at 11 AM, at our remote event: “Maintaining Telco’s legacy systems during the process of digital transformation”.

What kind of risks are Telcos facing due to unsupported hardware and software?

- "Having unsupported hardware and software in the IT application landscape is nowadays more related to risk management rather than traditional IT maintenance. Having a legacy system being deployed on outdated hardware is primarily a supply chain risk. Spare parts and server maintenance are becoming more and more limited, leading Telcos to turn to unconventional spare parts handling, such as refurbished and used parts whose better days have surely already passed and could fail at any given time. Moreover, running a legacy application poses a huge security risk as the technologies and operating systems they are based on are already well known and could be easily exploited by malicious attacks."

When we talk about Telco’s legacy systems, we think of them as an essential part of the infrastructure. So, can you explain why it is so complex to maintain and migrate them?

- "Legacy systems carry a significant technology debt. They are evolving systems, which means that Telcos have been compelled to continuously invest and upgrade them. Also, most legacy systems are actually serving the Telcos and clients, enabling services and operations, and bringing revenue to the operator.

In short, one cannot simply decide to replace these systems overnight, because they still serve mission-critical business processes and reflect substantial investment in money and skills made over the course of years.

Maintenance and migration of legacy systems is a complex process, which usually takes several years, involves a lot of technology analysis, business logic extraction, and actively engages all stakeholders from senior executives to end users."

Are Telco’s legacy systems roadblocks for the process of Digital Transformation?

- "Several market researches have single-handedly pointed out the rigidity of legacy systems as the biggest obstacle during the process of Digital Transformation.

Legacy systems are usually monolithic transaction-based systems, with data stuck in its own data silos, and they don’t really “click in” in terms of integrating with new digital systems. Unfortunately, this means that Telcos reliant on such systems can’t fully exploit new trends such as data analytics, real-time transactions, digital channels, etc. Simply put, legacy systems do not support business processes and the right user experience which modern technologies such as 5G and optical internet are enabling us.

Another huge hurdle is the human factor. Legacy systems were built and maintained by people who have by now moved on from hands-on technical tasks, so the competence on how to operate and migrate them is quite limited."

What options do organizations have in terms of maintenance of legacy systems during the implementation of newer Digital B/OSS systems?

- "Digital transformation projects are in their nature complex multi-level projects that span over the course of several years. From an operational perspective, this means that they take time, during which each Telco must make decisions on how to make it through until new Digital B/OSS  systems are ready and migrated.

It all depends on the status of the Digital Transformation project, and the amount of time and effort the Telco wants to invest during this transitional project. And let’s not forget that some decisions could actually be influenced by external factors such as security issues, lack of support, etc.

Luckily, the industry does have a lot of options on which Telcos can base their decisions. They range from re-hosting or simply isolating the legacy systems to a full-scale refactoring of the system. Telcos usually go with simpler solutions that involve minimal changes in the code and technology, which of course makes the most sense."

What are the main benefits of migrating Telco legacy systems?

- "The pandemic has clearly shown that the future must be digital. With lockdowns and restrictions all around, users have demanded digital channels and fast responsiveness from their service providers. Telcos need to become digital players and be able to build a comprehensive digital services portfolio.

In the next couple of years, we will see even higher demand for new services and options enabled by the emerging technologies, and Telcos must be able to keep pace and evolve appropriately, while successfully integrating all aspects of digital transformation.

Minimizing the reliance on legacy systems takes a heavy burden off Telco’s operations, and it will also enable them to take the “quantum leap” required by the new Telcom business reality. Telcos will be able to build a responsive, resilient and open ecosystem of services. As a result, Telcos will be able to create new digital services and build capabilities that enable them an effective engagement of digital customers. They will be able to leverage the huge amount of data collected every day to improve service quality and produce new valuable services.

Eventually, the benefits of reduced costs will be greatly appreciated by many management executives."