Old Wine in Old Wineskins | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

A famous teaching of Jesus explains that it’s a mistake to pour new wine into old wineskins because it will burst the skins and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. New wine belongs in new wineskins. I think we’re seeing this principle playing out in technology – where the consequences are profound.

New wine expands and grows fast; so it requires a supple, pliant container to allow for that expansion. Old wine is stable and mature; it does better in a stable, consistent environment.

For the most part, now that the cloud experiment is over, we see that new technologies and functionalities have many of the properties of new wine. They are effervescent, change continually, move quickly and often rely on heavy iteration. They constantly expand and change. They are best suited for new architectures such as cloud infrastructure and SaaS services. New technologies also have new requirements; thus, they require new structures, new and more flexible governance vehicles to allow them to capture their full value.

Legacy applications, the systems of records in which enterprises have invested hundreds of millions of dollars, are mature and were designed for their traditional environments, which tightly govern change. They are in data centers that have the requisite management support and requisite talent pools.

The services industry is starting to recognize the profound truth of the new and old wineskins: At this point in time, legacy applications are best left in their old, original containers where they can continue to operate in a mature fashion. Old applications or systems of record need to remain in their existing frameworks or architectures. They should be changed only slowly. Furthermore, new functionalities and technologies need to go into new wineskins, or architectures, that allow for and encourage agility and other attributes that support evolving change.


Photo credit: Flickr

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