Dawn of the Living Dead Applications

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-04-23

Its amazing how fast a new application can be orphaned by a struggling company. Due to the onslaught of new servers and operating systems, legacy applications now have the shortest life spans Ive witnessed in the last 20 years.

Case in point: Our 4-year-old, $400,000 court reporting system has turned to garbage. In its day, it was a beautiful system. It still is. Runs great. The software encodes audio from our courtrooms through a proprietary ISA card, which hums along nicely on our Windows NT 4.0 servers. Then one day, long ago—two years—we were notified that the company that developed the system was dropping the entire application and moving off in another direction.

I wasnt worried. Ive seen legacy applications run for 10 years without requiring much attention or support. But thats all changed.

Everythings changed.

First, the ISA bus is officially dead. Its life was taken in a hostile takeover by the PCI bus. If you dont believe me, try buying a new server with four ISA slots from the major vendors. Even their refurbished servers dont come with ISA. Last year, we could buy servers with ISA, but not today. Unfortunately, our proprietary encoder cards use four ISA slots per server. If you have an application that depends on an ISA card, and the vendor has no intention of building a PCI version of that card, your application will be dead in the time it takes the extended warranty on your server to expire.

Our court reporting software was also killed by support body blows, as well as stabs from Windows 2000. Since it was abandoned by the vendor, there are literally two people on the face of the planet who can support the application. Even if we could solve all these problems, we could never move all our servers to Win2K. The software wasnt written to run on Win2K.

Alas, we were only able to stave off the application grim reaper for two years after the software was pulled from the shelves.

Two years. Personally, this was the most expensive, shortest-lived product Ive ever dealt with, which makes me long for the good old, old, old days.

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