Considered by many as legacy software, the mainframe is a platform that could benefit from modernization—especially in today’s data-driven economy where the quickest data processing and analysis can mean the difference between winning and losing in business.
Say what you will about the mainframe, but it’s still a powerful platform in today’s standards and one that’s still used by many companies for business-critical processes.
COBOL applications are still used today to power 65% of enterprise software and 70% of business transaction processing around the world.
The COBOL programming language has also evolved to a point where it can support XML, JSON, and Java, providing modern applications with the necessary data and host-based processing they require.
Mainframe modernization, in simple terms, is the process of improving the aspects of a company’s existing mainframe footprint, including the code, interface, performance, maintainability, and total cost of ownership (TCO).
It doesn’t necessarily mean the replacement of so-called legacy systems but their integration with modern mobile and cloud applications.
This calls for a rethinking of an organization’s approach to computing, with the goal of creating a completely connected ecosystem. Applicable modern philosophies should also be adopted while using existing applications and when installing new, more modern ones.
New technologies have made it easier for organizations to modernize their mainframe systems so there shouldn’t be an excuse, especially when you consider the long-term gains.
Mainframe modernization means the modernization of legacy stacks by integration with newer applications, cloud integration, and reduced a million transactions per second (MIPS) costs.
How Do You Modernize the Mainframe?
Any change, regardless of scope can be jarring, and mainframe modernization can help lessen the impact of this by helping organizations “upgrade” their mainframe systems instead of “replacing” them.
A decades-old platform, the mainframe can be useful for more decades into the future, if it goes through a proper modernization process. You also get to enjoy the mainframe modernization benefits that come with it.
Build Upon What You Already Have
The most prudent modernization technique is to have an in-depth knowledge of what you already have and build upon what works.
This means starting with existing mainframe-based COBOL systems and providing incremental improvements by gradually adding capabilities and components to preserve the functionality of current systems. Before modernization, you should also take ownership of the following:
- Primary and secondary programming languages
- Data infrastructure and data stored in relational databases
- Application and system level security
- Development, test, and QA infrastructure
- Production, failover, and disaster recovery infrastructure
- Output, content, and report management
- Application modernization architecture and tooling
Determine the Direction of the Organization
Your modernization process should begin with an assessment of where the organization is now and what its needs are so you can determine future direction and business needs.
At this point, it’s important to have someone walk you through the current systems and provide a detailed analysis and recommend target environments for various applications.
Understand the Bigger Picture
See how your mainframe system and its modernization fits into the overall operation of the business. Understanding the connection between infrastructure and operations will minimize unexpected delays and rework during the modernization process.
Internal stakeholders should be part of the process so they understand the reason for modernization and how to leverage it to push the business forward. Their support will also be very helpful along the way, especially when it comes to operational considerations.
Choose What to Modernize
Modernization should never be done just for the sake of it; you should carefully choose which components or systems to upgrade or convert.
A strategy should be determined for the handling of archived data because the modernization process includes some “housekeeping.”
Certain details also need to be determined to ensure the smooth integration of old and new systems, including the nature of stored data, the reasons for retention, the legal requirements of retention, and who owns the data and is responsible for its management.
Prepare for Testing
This is a vital part of every modernization program, so much so, that it often becomes half of the entire process or even more. Prepare test-related artifacts like data, test plans, and test scripts to avoid wasting time in post-migration testing.
Leverage existing testing assets and processes and ensure proper documentation of all test cases. It’s best to start the testing process early and not underestimate the level of work required in ensuring comprehensive testing.
The Modern Mainframe
All businesses should be prepared for a digital transformation at the soonest possible time if they are to stay relevant in the coming years. The best approach to mainframe modernization is to do it in phases and choose the path of least resistance.
Assess what the business needs are and determine what tools and systems are required to meet those needs. Choosing what to modernize is always a case-by-case decision, and modernization should never be done just to get the newest and latest technologies.
Modernization should be in parallel with business development to ensure a smooth transition.