Mainframe modernization

Modernización de Mainframe

In general, we talk about “mainframe modernization” when we undertake the task of updating systems from old technological platforms. This involves taking a piece of software still in use but based on a language running on outdated hardware and translating it into more modern languages and/or platforms.

This is also called “legacy system modernization” because it aims to leverage the features offered by new methodologies and practices in software development, applying them to tasks that an old software used to perform.

Typically, this also entails a shift from inherited hardware.

The IT world is marked by countless new paradigms, and one of them is the idea of extending the lifespan of software, along with all the knowledge invested in the initial application development. This is achieved by aligning it with the perspective of the latest technical innovations and making it independent of the hardware where it resides.

Once the need for modernization is established, companies must adopt an action plan that aligns with their internal culture and policies. Let’s delve a bit into this.

Some concepts about mainframe modernization

Defining a legacy system (or inherited system) isn’t easy.

In fact, there isn’t a single definition because, after all, what are we talking about? The terminology in use can encompass programming languages, applications built with those languages, databases maintained using those languages, and processes involved in specific technologies.

And, of course, we can’t forget the hardware that hosts the entire complexity of the mentioned software.

A common characteristic, an obvious one too, is that the legacy system is still in use, running on mainframes, sometimes, entirely obsolete. And it’s very likely that it still meets the needs for which it was originally designed, and here is where we encounter the first limitation. It works, yes, but free evolution is not feasible.

A legacy system running on a mainframe is crucial for the organization where it operates because it often runs mission-critical applications. However, it may have lost its competitive advantage against new technologies or business processes.

Integration with more modern systems is either forbidden or very difficult to implement.

We are not randomly mentioning the most common problems of a Legacy System; we’re just highlighting some of the daily challenges faced by an IT department.

If your company recognizes itself in any of the above paragraphs, we invite you to keep reading.

Legacy Systems vs. Modern Systems

If we had to choose milestones or turning points regarding legacy systems running on mainframes, we could easily say that the year 2019 would be on that list.

The IT Budget

For example, the argument against the economic burden of legacy systems became evident in a report from the United States government on how the IT budget was executed in 2018. To the surprise of a few, the report showed that 80% of that budget was consumed in maintenance and support operations of legacy systems to keep them operational within acceptable parameters of efficiency and cybersecurity, to name a few of the patches executed.

However, it’s not necessary to limit ourselves to the problem posed by the economic approach because, given that legacy systems still play critical functions in many places, the issue of money can be considered acceptable in most of them. But we know that not everything is about money in this life. And in the IT underworld either. Let’s see.

Modernizing Legacy Systems is Urgent

In June 2019, the United States Government Accountability Office issued a report titled “Agencies Need to Develop Modernization Plans for Critical Legacy Systems,” where it identifies and lists the 10 most critical legacy systems where modernization is imperative.

According to the report, departments ranging from Health and Transportation to the Department of Defense are affected because they have legacy systems as old as 50 years, which the Government Accountability Office points out as high or moderate risk due to their use in critical missions or security.

Security is Neglected

Similarly, ProPublica, an independent news agency dedicated to investigative journalism, exposed in the article “Millions of Americans’ Medical Images and Data Are Available on the Internet. Anyone Can Take a Peek,” from September 2019, that healthcare legacy systems do not meet the minimum security requirements to protect them from online hacking.

In summary, after reading the mentioned reports, numerous questions should arise about why we continue to maintain our dependence on legacy systems.

It’s time to address mainframe modernization.

Let’s take it step by step.

The Risks of Our Legacy Applications.

We have already seen that we are exposed to various limitations, and now we are going to list some to define what we are talking about.

  • Security Risks

Directly related to lack of maintenance or the absence of support from the original company or provider, legacy systems are riddled with vulnerabilities for which, increasingly frequently, there are no adequate patches.

  • Legal Non-Compliance

The latest compliance standards are becoming increasingly challenging to meet. For example, depending on the geographical location where legacy applications run, new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulations will require validations and accesses that such legacy systems cannot provide.

  • Inefficiency and Unpredictability

Modern business practices and the production drives enabled by new technologies identify legacy systems as obstacles that hinder a more efficient workflow.

  • Insufficient Information

Difficulty in adapting to modern metrics means that the large dataset involving legacy systems does not meet the requirements of current demands. They are typically segmented data, prepared for batch execution, which does not align well with real-time processes.

  • Integration and Interoperability

The deficiency in the variety of data types, access technologies, and user interface functions as a barrier that isolates legacy systems, limiting, if not preventing, integration with other systems.

Why Are Legacy Systems Running on Mainframes Still in Use?

We cannot overlook the fact that a legacy system running on a mainframe keeps the company in a business routine that has proven to be efficient and, quite possibly, still operates at acceptable levels.

Moreover, even though maintaining the legacy system is costly, upgrading it also requires a significant investment. Since every IT department head has to justify such an investment, it’s natural for them to question its profitability. They often advocate for the status quo.

There are also simpler and more human reasons. Simply put: fear of change.

Just mentioning modernizing a legacy application triggers internal resistance to change. Employees fear losing their jobs, losing data, in short, they fear the unknown.

Additionally, who can say that facing the migration of a legacy application is easy? As we mentioned, for many IT departments, even planning a data migration feels overwhelming. It’s disruptive and paralyzing.

The most clichéd phrases in the world of IT start echoing repeatedly, such as “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Don’t change! That’s the initial impulse. Change is perceived as a sudden disruption of normalcy, and there’s a mistaken belief that migration will bring periods of downtime.

That’s why the priority is to establish a migration plan that aligns with the company’s culture. It’s crucial for the company’s staff to feel comfortable with the verification and certification protocols of the migrated system.

Resistance to change must be overcome from within. The management must clearly convey that the change will happen inevitably and without a doubt about the benefits it brings.

Mainframe Modernization Approaches

In order to determine a viable strategy that allows us to successfully address legacy application modernization, it is crucial to understand the most common approaches. For example,

  • Rehosting

Also known as “lift and shift.” This refers to taking an existing application and moving it from the legacy environment to a more modern infrastructure, usually cloud computing.

Under this approach, the application is migrated as-is, without changes to its code. It’s worth noting that not all legacy applications can be updated using this approach to the problem.

If you are particularly interested in the “Cloud computing” paradigm, we invite you to continue reading this article on the Google website where you can also find us on the list of Technology Partners endorsing us to start the modernization process.

  • Refactoring

Refactoring is rewriting or restructuring existing software. Essentially, a piece of software is taken and rewritten, typically using native capabilities of the target platform, so that it performs the same function but optimally in the new environment.

This approach is suitable when the software earmarked for updating is divided into smaller functional pieces, with specific clear coupling points, or in a functioning distribution called a microservice.

  • Restructuring

This approach is applied when we need to delve into the changes made to the original architecture of the candidate software. It typically involves deeper complementary updates, ranging from replacing pieces of code or even the backend database access.

Once the different approaches and ways to approach Legacy System modernization are understood, we must ask ourselves the following question: How well do we know our system to migrate?

The extent of this answer will directly determine the strategy to be used, and at Base100, we have a lot to say about it.

Benefits of Mainframe Modernization

The list of benefits is not short, but we encourage you to consider the following:

  • Cost Reduction

Both in maintenance and in licensing or operation, mainframe infrastructure entails significant costs. Migrating the legacy system to more modern platforms will eliminate these expenses.

  • Accessible Professionals

The retirement of the original staff who wrote the code for legacy systems is a reality. These skills are no longer taught in new IT schools. There is a whole world of professionals available to choose from to maintain systems developed within the framework of new technologies.

  • Reduced Technological Dependency

The opportunities that come with becoming independent from mainframes gain strength when upgrading to modern technologies, which in many cases, enhance automation of many tasks in the quest for more efficient and cost-effective maintenance options.

  • Competitive Advantage

New technologies also bring along a fast-paced competitive world of continuous improvement. Adapting constantly to market demands is much easier than in the mainframe world.

The Best Solutions for System Modernization

At Base100, we believe that the starting point is a comprehensive analysis of the candidate software.

The evaluation and inventory of legacy applications running on the Mainframe are the first tasks to tackle and should include in-depth analysis of their technical characteristics.

Studying how the business and presentation layers are distributed will allow unraveling an application that until the previous moments behaved like little more than an inaccessible black box.

At Base100, we offer you Caravel Insight for IBMi or Caravel Insight for z/OS so you can see your legacy system in detail and interactively like never before.

With Caravel Insight, you can identify different components swiftly and with a dynamic that allows you to enhance the accessible code, understanding it comprehensively from a general overview to the smallest detail of each analyzed object.

At the same time, the inspection and analysis that the legacy application undergoes enable Caravel Insight to document the entire system in an organized, updated, and clear manner.

With Caravel Insight, RPG, COBOL, CL, DSPF, PRTF, LF, PF,… ILE or FREE objects are revealed. Complexity is set aside, and the entire legacy system gains understanding, easily identifying security holes, poorly structured flows, or duplicated code, to name a few examples.

Mainframe Modernization

In a way, this is the reason for Base100‘s existence. t’s what we do. It’s who we are.

We understand that mainframe legacy systems must migrate to new technologies, but we are aware that the decisions are made by the people who live with the system day in and day out.

We want to help you make the best possible decision for each specific problem you face.

Trust in Base100’s experience!

We offer you a set of tools and products to ensure that any process of implementing modernization solutions for Mainframe z/OS or IBMi AS/400 towards more modern technologies is done with an indisputable guarantee of success.

You can find more information here:

Interested in our proposal?

Let’s keep moving forward and talk about modernization!

Contact us.