The FinTech industry has been moving by leaps and bounds. With the general digitalization of the world and the COVID-19 pandemic, the online payment industry has changed dramatically only in the last few years, let alone the changes it endured in a decade or two. Yet, many FinTech companies still use legacy software written ten or more years ago. The question is whether legacy software is ready to meet current demands and what strengths and weaknesses it has against modern software.
With more than 15 years of hands-on experience in online payments, we at Akurateco White-Label Payment Gateway have developed both legacy and modern payment software ourselves. In this article, we will review each system, explore their pros and cons in detail, and investigate what specific goals legacy and modern software serve.
Legacy payment software vs modern software: Sorting it out
A payment gateway is the software and hardware complex that processes online transactions between a merchant and a customer and requires PCI DSS certification to ensure payment security. Looking at the online payments market now, it is clear that there are payment gateway providers that use modern systems, and there are those that utilize legacy systems written decades ago. Although a gap between old and new programming approaches cannot be overlooked, let us briefly examine their fundamental differences.
If we compare systems from 10-15 years ago with modern ones in development, the primary difference would be the programming methods, methodologies, and infrastructure used.
A decade ago, given the level of programming language development, the developers were required to write the software entirely by themselves, using only their knowledge and technical specifications. In writing modern software, programmers use a completely different approach to development with framework usage and infrastructure services. A framework refers to a collection of pre-written and pre-structured code that provides a set of tools and libraries to help a developer build software faster and more efficiently.
When it comes to infrastructure, previously, it included only the database, operating system, and firewall. Now it consists of a massive system of additional services, different types of databases, queue and virtualization services, etc. These services allow for building more scalable, versatile, and adaptable to different kinds of infrastructure systems.
Legacy software: Pros
To start with, let’s analyze legacy software’s advantages.
Enhanced system security
There is no greater fear for software owners than their systems getting hacked. Undoubtedly, such a situation will cause irreparable financial and reputational damage. That is why the critical benefit of legacy software is its enhanced security. Being written by developers from scratch solely on their knowledge, with no external services used and no one knowing its exact architecture and development details other than those involved in the process, legacy software is much tougher to hack.
An inside-out understanding of the system
Another undeniable advantage is that legacy software can be examined by programmers down to the smallest detail. Therefore, in case of unforeseen situations and force majeure, it will be much easier to localize and eliminate the problem.
Highly customized to your needs
Likewise, due to manual development, legacy software is highly tailored to provider specifications. Therefore, in cases when legacy software was built specifically for the needs of your business, it can be more customized than modern analogs.
Legacy software: Cons
Given the reliability and security of legacy software, it also has many limitations, which we list below.
Lack of flexibility
One of the most significant drawbacks of this system is that it can only work under the conditions for which it was created. Legacy software was written specifically to work with well-defined tasks under predetermined scenarios. For instance, if you developed the software to process 10M transactions through the payment gateway, but now their number has increased to 30M, your system will not withstand this because its architecture was not designed for such a capacity. To be able to process 30M transactions, such a payment gateway must be rebuilt from scratch.
Lack of scalability and portability
A system that is effective for specific tasks, unfortunately, may not be able to work with modern technologies or distributed systems, which can limit its ability to scale. Also, generally developed for specific hardware or operating systems that are no longer widely used, legacy systems cannot be easily transferred from one infrastructure to another.
One of the biggest challenges legacy software owners face is that the infrastructure services used to develop it, such as the base, operating system, and programming language version, become outdated over time and may no longer be supported by the manufacturer. Essentially, there is a risk that if you make a new copy of this system or install it in a different environment, you will not have this operating system, base, or programming language if the infrastructure is outdated or no longer supported. Additionally, there is a higher probability that the code of the legacy system, its infrastructure, or its hardware will fail to comply with updated PCI DSS requirements which are reviewed every year.
Lack of developers and programmers on the market
It is not only technologies that change over time, but also the people who use them. Consequently, it’s extremely difficult to find developers who still use the same paradigms and methods as ten years ago. New approaches to development with frameworks make it easier for programmers to master the process, deliver the final product, and achieve a profit. For this reason, most developers change old programming approaches to new ones.
High development cost
High development costs are a result of a lack of specialists. Due to the limited number of programmers who can work with old programming methods and paradigms, their work will be much more expensive.
Slow development speed
In addition, the development speed will also be slowed since searching for these specialists will take a considerable amount of time.
It’s safe to say that legacy software is quite difficult to update to meet modern FinTech requirements. Yet, although all the cons may seem overwhelming, such software can be used and maintained if needed. For instance, financial and banking systems commonly use legacy software developed 10-40 years ago and still can perform its functions successfully. However, it is essential to consider all the pros and cons when choosing a system, keeping in mind that you may face these challenges in the future.
Modern software: Pros
Modern software has undeniable advantages over its predecessor.
Portable infrastructure-rich system
Compared to legacy software, modern software is unlimited in infrastructure systems and relies on ready-made frameworks. Modern infrastructure comes with multiple additional tools, different types of databases, queue and virtualization services, etc., for programmers to use all these numerous infrastructure pieces to develop more scalable, versatile, and transferable to different types of infrastructure software.
In contrast to legacy software, modern software is very scalable due to the infrastructure mentioned above and can be easily expanded. If we use an analogy with a system that was designed to handle 10M transactions, but its workload increased to 30M later, modern software would handle it effortlessly since you can always add more resources to the database and other services in order for your system to take on a higher load than it was built for.
Easy to find developers for
Many modern software technologies are popular and widely adopted, so more developers are familiar with them. Due to this, many specialists on the market are capable of developing modern software.
Accelerated development process
In turn, development speeds up because there is no need to spend extra time looking for programmers. Additionally, the use of frameworks and modern infrastructure significantly reduces development time.
Lower development cost
If a larger pool of specialists is available, development costs will decrease. Also, since the developers are familiar with the technology, they are likely to ramp up and become more efficient faster, reducing costs as well.
Modern software is designed to be more flexible and adaptable. It is often built using modular architectures and APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), making integrating with other software systems easier. As well, user-friendly and easy-to-use features, such as intuitive user interfaces and mobile compatibility, make it easier for users to access and utilize the software.
Simpler in maintenance
The software is up-to-date and employs many technologies that simplify maintenance, such as improved development methodologies, automated testing and deployment, modular architecture, and cloud-based deployment.
Modern software: Cons
Although it may seem that the modern system does not have any visible shortcomings in comparison with legacy software, there is more to it than what meets the eye.
Being used to the framework and infrastructure services that simplify our work, we end up owning less of the code. Since it has not been written by us, we have no idea what it contains and are not responsible for what’s inside. Thus, we cannot be 100% sure whether the ready-made code matches its declaration. On the one hand, we rely on the community’s knowledge and experience in this matter, but on the other hand, we lose our own perspective.
The fault tolerance of the system is lower
As a result, if we cannot be sure of what the system consists of, we also cannot be sure of its operability, especially in critical force majeure situations. Using ready-made parts in the programming language and infrastructure, we cannot guarantee the level of software fault tolerance. Basically, our system now contains a large number of pre-written and pre-structured nodes, and as the number of nodes increases, the software’s fault tolerance decreases. Consequently, it is difficult to manage and configure such a system when something happens to it.
Still, despite such threatening drawbacks, thousands of people utilize modern software and develop it with up-to-date frameworks and infrastructure services. That is why the developers’ community is experiencing a much higher level of communication and experience sharing than ten years ago. Plus, modern approaches to development are now booming and will continue to thrive for a long time to come. Thus, modern development approaches should not be feared. Instead, we have to adapt to their shortcomings and learn to overcome them.
To sum up
When comparing legacy and modern payment software, there’s no clear winner. Each system is sharpened for different tasks and will serve its purpose if it has the capacity to. Legacy software can provide reliability and security, but will not be able to adapt to modern technologies and load levels in the same way that modern software can. Modern software, in its turn, is highly scalable, user-friendly, and easy to maintain, though it cannot be wholly owned because many of its parts are pre-written by the community.