Delivering unique, high-quality products and services is no guarantee of success in this global and digital economy. Established enterprises vie with new digital startups in markets that demand greater innovation and quality at a lower cost. Organizations must be flexible to exploit the rapid development of new products in response to constant technological change. They must stay ahead while managing risk and cost. They must balance modernization with the preservation of mission-critical resources.
When it comes to mainframe systems, the decision to remain competitive is easier said than done. For example, the proprietary nature of Unisys mainframes makes them incompatible with current software applications that could increase agility, productivity and profitability. This incompatibility leads to a dilemma: “Do we continue to write applications for the existing mainframe or move to an open systems or cloud architecture?” Any decision to change the mainframe can run into several roadblocks such as:
- Staffing: The age and complexity of many mainframe systems often require time and expertise not available through current staffing.
- Risk: Organizations cannot afford the loss of legacy data, the degradation of mission-critical applications or the interruption of profitable services.
- Economy: The cost of writing new applications or purchasing licenses often exceeds the immediate cost of preserving current system architecture.
Nevertheless, internal and external changes continue to drive the urgency for change. Business partners, unencumbered by legacy infrastructure, may implement systems that are incompatible with the legacy architecture. Groups within an organization may require business intelligence unavailable through the current database design. Customers switch to organizations that can provide enhanced services at lower cost. The time for change has arrived, but any solution must pass an acid test to meet the criteria for success and added value.
The Criteria for Success
Any attempt to move from an old mainframe to a new system or the cloud requires consensus building and executive buy-in since nearly all of the internal groups will either reap the benefits or live with the consequences. Therefore, it is important to define in advance what a successful solution will look like and how it will perform. In my view, a successful solution meets the following criteria:
- Stable: The solution supports millions of queries and operations during peak business hours without stalling or crashing.
- Affordable: The solution’s value exceeds its implementation and maintenance costs; it costs less than maintaining the current mainframe system.
- Flexible: The solution supports current applications and provides adaptable technology that anticipates future updates.
- Powerful: The solution works at lightning speed and increases the ability to exploit valuable data.
- Efficient: The solution provider engages and disengages quickly while keeping costs low and ensuring success.
- Standardized: The solution and its implementation are compliant with the industry’s best practices and compatible with internal and external clients.
- Intuitive: The solution provides the convenience of modernization without sacrificing well-known business models, interfaces and rules.
Few organizations can meet these criteria without outside help. Legacy modernization projects require a unique combination of expertise, experience and technology that is not easy to find in today’s market.
As you look for consultants and service providers, make sure they have completed engagements that include:
- Modernization of existing legacy applications without the cost of rewriting them
- Automated migration and renovation that reduce time to market
- Integration of legacy applications with open systems and cloud technologies
- User-friendly interfaces that simplify training needs
- Cross-platform standardization and consolidation
The intricacy of moving from a mainframe to an open system or cloud environment requires a systematic approach, using proven processes and tools that have been consistently successful over time. My recommendation is not to try to do it alone. Finding the right outside partners to help in the journey is often the key to success.
Craig Marble is the senior director of Astadia’s legacy modernization practice. Craig has spent over twenty five years in the information technology industry, most of which has been focused on legacy modernization projects. For more information about Astadia, visit http://www.astadia.com and follow Astadia at @AstadiaInc, Facebook/AstadiaInc and LinkedIn/Astadia. For more on legacy modernization, visit www.astadia.com/insights/. IT Pro occasionally runs guest pieces from industry experts. Read more about contributing here.