What is code migration?

Code migration is the movement of programming code from one system to another. There are three distinct levels of code migration with increasing complexity, cost, and risk. Simple migration involves moving the language to a newer version. A second, more complicated level of migration involves switching to a different programming language. Migrating to an entirely new platform or operating system is the most complex type of migration.

Woman doing handstand with a computer

The first type of code migration is a simple move from one version of a language to a newer but syntactically different version. This is the easiest of the migration routes, as the basic structure and many of the programming constructs generally do not change. In many cases the old code would actually work, but new and improved routines or modularization can be improved by reworking the code to fit the nature of the new language. Therefore, migrating the code would lead to more efficiency in execution.

The second level of code migration would be to migrate to a completely different programming language. This can be caused by porting to a new software system or implementing a different relational database management system (RDMS). This type of migration often requires programmers to learn an entirely new language or new programmers to be brought in to help with the migration. In this case, the entire program must be rewritten from scratch. While most constructs probably exist in both languages, the precise syntax is often completely different.

The most complex example of code migration is migrating to an entirely new platform and/or operating system (OS). This not only changes the programming language, but also the machine code behind the language. While most modern programming languages ​​protect the programmer from this low-level code, knowledge of the operating system and how it operates is essential to producing code that is efficient and performs as expected.

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Regardless of the migration type, the approach should be the same. The migration team or programmer should break down each module, function and subroutine into its purpose and program flowchart. This is a reverse engineering of the original software development lifecycle (SDLC). Once these modules and functions are mapped to their high-level purpose, they can be rewritten and tested in a compartmentalized fashion in the new language. Like any advanced computer programming project, proper planning and documentation is key to a successful code migration.

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