Modernizing Mainframes:

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Mainframe applications are at the core of the organizational functions and the nervous system of most organizations. They form critical part of the technology infrastructure of businesses. They have been serving the businesses for ages and are best known for their reliability, availability, security and performance.

Mainframe systems are still being used across industries; especially in the banking and financial industry, which require large amounts of transaction data to be processed through RDBMS querying. However these beasts need to be re-engineered in order to leapfrog into the modern digital software world; hence the need for a viable mainframe modernization strategy

Need for Modernizing Mainframes

Organizations that pivoted their businesses around the mainframe and other legacy systems need to hurdle through the challenges of the digital age in order to be able to broaden their business landscape and carry the culture of exceeding customer demands. The ever-changing business needs of the “informed-customers” propel organizations to migrate their applications (that were built few decades back) to re-invent and align them towards an enriching experience and digital transformation. The modern customer has his path on the digital age and expects an efficient, faster response and quicker time to market. However, the legacy layers are interwoven which adds to the overall challenge in meeting the demands. With clear charter, the equation can be changed to transcend the digital horizon.

What are the Challenges in mainframe modernization?

The mainframe applications are built using legacy development like COBOL, CICS, JCL having discreet support, lack of integration and web capabilities for different business applications. Lack of flexibility and the shrinking labor pool with legacy expertise adds up to the core challenges of mainframes modernization.

The risks that companies are facing in terms of migrating the applications may be broadly classified under the following categories:

Skill set Risks: Support to older mainframe applications are slowly and steadily falling due to lack of resources. Mainframes run on legacy databases such as DB2 with applications in COBOL or CICS and programmers with these skill sets are increasingly becoming scarce.

Application Maintenance: The mainframe applications are built using legacy development like COBOL, CICS, JCL that have discreet support, lack of integration and web capabilities for different business applications

Business Risks:As Big Data comes into the foray, information accessibility is a concern when modern platforms take centre stage. For any business, information is key and the availability of the same is vital for responding to market changes and organization requirements.

Maintenance cost: Maintaining the mainframe systems can burn a hole in the pockets of the organization and can consume a major portion of the IT budget of an organization.

Gartner estimates the average in-house cost of managing a mainframe environment is7 percent of an organization’s annual IT spend and could reach as high as 20 percent.

However, modernization comes with its own benefits as shown below

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The age-old systems in one hand are struggling to get to pace on one side, whilst, the need to tackle this stems on the other side. For enhanced business agility, the mainframe systems need to be modernized so that they can be a part of the current mainstream IT system.

Making the transformation

So, how do we do this keeping in mind the technology challenges?

Making code/ script changes and making changes to data interfaces may become a herculean task keeping in mind the multiple platforms and the data interfaces.

Clear Roadmap: A detailed roadmap for the modernization strategy keeping in mind the current environment is of paramount importance. A detailed project plan, business and technical priorities paves way for a effective transformation.

Target Architecture: A clear formulation of target architecture deployable on open systems that will reduce cost of ownership and increase agility is another major factor.

Current Cost vs. Estimated Cost Savings analysis: Making estimates in terms of Cost savings in lines with the current costs and ROI, selection of hardware and software platform choices and costs relevant there to are some of the critical factors that need to be considered before implementation.

Holistic Modernization Solution: A holistic approach to modernization which will include the data migration, rehosting, GUI / web enablement is what will yield the anticipated business outcome.

Organizations that do not transcend towards IT modernization are bound to lose out on the competitive edge. A modernization strategy is what is required for an efficient transformation in addition to the host of evaluation criteria such as maintainability, Vendor Lock in, Complexity, Cost of Migration and Time to Market.

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