Introduction to Software Reengineering — Its Types, Its Rules and Business Benefits

They say don’t fix it unless it’s broken. We say update it before it’s old.

Software decays over time. Not like a piece of fruit, rotting from inside, but due to lack of updates implemented to it; the updates IT environment imposes on all its residents. Such phenomenon, also known as software aging, is preventable by numerous measures, one of which is software product reengineering — the topic of today’s article.

Keep reading for a few minutes, we’ll provide you with a chunk of useful info.

Before going any further, let’s make a vocabulary check:

  • Legacy systems — old software your company uses that, though out of date, is too integral to be replaced.
  • Software reengineering — a complex procedure aimed at modernizing software. It is typically used to increase system’s maintainability, enhance performance, scalability, security and so on, without largely changing its functionality.

When is software product reengineering a suitable option?

If there’s no more support. When manufacturers discontinue support of a compiler of a programming language, software systems built on it are left without room for improvement. No new security updates and no patches are available for them, forever, which makes code vulnerable and a piece of software completely unsuited to the competitive environment.
Integrating legacy systems via modern APIs is severely challenging; and so is finding experts who could maintain them efficiently. Moreover, maintenance of outdated systems takes lots of resources and time, and usually is not cost-effective.

When a dramatic technology leap occurs. It happens often that a promising technology becomes obsolete at once. Winamp, ICQ, Internet Explorer all got replaced by market newcomers, which, no doubt, will get bumped also, once more advanced alternatives come along. Software is sensitive to the ever-evolving market like nothing else and thus frequent reengineering is mandatory for each company wishing to stay relevant.

If software is flawed. Software reengineering is not merely a mean of staying a market leader. It’s also a way to become one. If a solution developed for your company is buggy, fails frequently and limits firm’s performance overall, reengineering can be applied to make it more efficient.

How is software reengineering done?

When the concept is brought up in conversation, the speaker, most commonly, refers to one these four procedures:

Translation of source code. Outdated programming language is translated to a newer version or a more advanced language, while legacy system’s organization in general remains untouched; main reason for that being huge maintenance expenses. Supporting compilers of old coding languages can become costly over time and a translation, in such cases, would substantially reduce company’s spendings.

Architecture improvement. Unfortunately, programmers with superficial knowledge aren’t rare and poorly structured software they crank out either. That, and gradual degradation caused by shoddy maintenance, are the two main factors forcing business runners to turn to software reengineering.

The prevailing harmful practice in software maintenance, as known, is adding new conditions without adjusting the existing control logic. If applied systematically, it can made parts of code unreachable and a solution’s structure incomprehensible.

There’s no remedy, if that happens, other than improving software’s structure.

Data reengineering. Software reengineering, in theory, doesn’t affect system’s core functionality and the data it processes therefore needs not to be touched. In practice, however, you don’t want data’s outdated management system and organisation type to slow down the overall system’s performance; so its restructuring, at times, is an utter necessity.

There are three approaches one can take to data reengineering:

  1. Cleanup — all data is audited thoroughly; duplicates and redundancies are eliminated and a single format is applied across all records.
  2. Extension — programs associated with data processing are modified; field length and upper limits on the tables are extended. The data, itself, is cleaned up and rewritten to reflect the overall changes made to the system.
  3. Migration — all records are moved to an advanced database management system, which simplifies data interaction, end-users’ and program components’ communication.

Summing up

In a nutshell, goals of software reengineering boil down to optimizing system’s structure and making software easier to understand, which, as a result, reduces cost of its maintenance. It could be a brief procedure, consisting solely of automatic source code translation, or take up a sufficient amount of resources if, for instance, data restructuring is also required. Consider thoroughly your own circumstances, before opting for means of software evolution that would best suit you.

If you’re not sure though how exactly to enhance your product — outsource its audit to our expert, a highly experienced software engineer.

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