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Finance Sysadmins: Are You Relying Too Much on Legacy Systems?

When financial institutions suffer IT failures, the fallout is just as widespread and sudden as you would imagine. The media, rightfully, uses words like "disastrous" and "collapse" when describing these incidents.

The Royal Bank of Scotland found that out firsthand in the summer of 2012, after a series of high-profile IT failures locked out some 12 million exasperated customers from their bank accounts. It took two years for regulators to issue penalties against RBS, which eventually had to hand over £56m ($83 million) in fines. On top of the obvious damage to RBS' reputation, that's certainly a high price to pay for failure to modernize technology.

The Legacy of Legacy IT in Finance

What's important to remember about any criticism of RBS is that the problem of older technology is really one the entire financial industry has been grappling with for some time. In the aftermath of the RBS failure, industry observers called on all financial institutions to learn from the incident.

"Investment in those [computer systems] has since been neglected as tightening budgets have meant less is spent on modernization and quality assurance," Lev Lesokhin told ComputerWeekly. "Until these underlying issues are addressed...we will continue to see glitches like this."

So why, if it's such a root problem, is the finance sector so partial toward hybrid systems that blend new and legacy technology? 

First, there's an element of entrenchment that makes these systems difficult to overhaul. There's also the fact financial institutions are generally risk-averse and reluctant to take chances with new, disruptive technology, when they have "good quality, proven systems" that have stood the test of time – there's something to be said for familiarity and inertia. And, as Lesokhin suggested, some institutions have under-invested in new technology.

Finance Sysadmins See It Differently

Despite the prevailing preference toward legacy IT in finance, sysadmins at these institutions likely see eye-to-eye with Lesokhin, and fully understand the hazards of old technology. Potential hazard, and common hazards like being at the whim of companies like Microsoft, which can pull out the rug of support at any moment, to exposing their institutions to potential vulnerabilities involving compliance and risk. They know that their firms are putting their bottom line, and reputation, in harm's way by relying on old software and hardware.

Fortunately, the tide has been turning in favor of change-hungry sysadmins. Over the last decade, new, Linux-based systems have become very popular on Wall Street and around the world. For the London Stock Exchange, a September 2008 stoppage of activity – later traced backed to the crash of a Windows-based server – proved to be the tipping point that pushed the exchange toward a Novell SUSE Linux-based platform. 

In the wake of stock exchanges making this shift, other financial institutions have followed suit and adopted Linux-based technology. Finance sysadmins find these platforms offer greater flexibility, responsiveness and security, as well as the means to future-proof their IT estate and avoid unpleasant surprises as they scale.

The Way Forward

All of this sounds good in theory, but what happens once it's time to actually upgrade technology? Many finance sysadmins find themselves in some middle ground, introducing new servers and software while still trying to support old technology.

And that's okay. It's a process that can, and should, be executed with care and take time. As ACI notes in its whitepaper "Replacing Legacy Payment Systems," this process is akin to "open heart surgery on a live patient" – it must be done carefully, without harming the rest of the “body.”

However finance sysadmins approach the process of upgrading technology, what won't vary is the importance of having an IT monitoring solution that retains visibility into all their systems. As these IT upgrades are rolled out, it's important for sysadmins to simultaneously make improvements to their IT monitoring platform. A system that can monitor hardware and software of any age will protect an institution's evolving infrastructure even as the sysadmin continues to make changes. 

As we explain in our new ebook, “Stay Bullish: How Finance Sysadmins Bridge New and Old IT,” IT monitoring enables finance sysadmins to integrate new technology into their IT estate without upsetting the current flow of operations.

Download our eBook for free and learn:

  • How to balance your time and cost with firm security and high reliability
  • How the biggest exchanges such as NASDAQ are moving forward with their new IT systems and datacenters and
  • How Heartland Systems processes and monitors nearly 11 million transactions in one day with Windows, and Linux

Get unified insight into your IT operations with Opsview Monitor

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by Opsview Team,
Opsview is passionately focused on monitoring that enables DevOps teams to deliver smarter business services, faster.

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