If you had a friend who took all your money and refused to support you when you needed it most—you’d know it was time for a change. Yet when it comes to the company mainframe, some business and public sector leaders let inertia and procrastination keep them in a one-sided, low benefits relationship with their obsolescing systems.
All take and no give!
We recently had a client who faced this dilemma with their antiquated mainframe. A key government agency, the Customer manages social security, tax, income and pension information for twelve million citizens. Its systems interacted with a host of external federal and regional organizations, communal institutions, banks and hospitals to provide coordinated financial services to citizens across all states.
The issue? The agency was storing, managing and maintaining this hyperscale and ever-expanding data load of highly sensitive citizen information on an aging mainframe, using decades-old COBOL. The system lacked the agility and adaptability the agency needed to service an increasingly mobile pool of users.
Moreover, as technology has evolved, the Customer’s COBOL-trained team needed more modern development, maintenance and deployment environments and tools that would allow them to merge their skill sets with new hires trained only in more modern languages. This would ensure continuity of database support now and into the future.
The Customer was also facing new regulatory requirements their existing system couldn’t meet. With the operational benefits of modernizing now obvious, their goal was to migrate their database and business applications to a powerful open platform that could support development and accelerate service delivery—while eliminating infrastructure support costs and skyrocketing licensing fees.
How much money are you throwing away every year supporting your mainframe?
Computing power on mainframes is calculated in MIPS, which stands for millions of instructions per second. The average annual cost per installed MIPS is approximately $1,600, with hardware and software costs accounting for sixty-five percent, or approximately $1,040.
Consequently, the annual infrastructure cost for a 15,200 MIPS mainframe is approximately $16 million. Eliminating these costs by running the same applications to an open-source system based on commodity hardware means a big boost to a company’s bottom line.
Stubborn technology challenges nearly ended the project before it began
The Customer decided to migrate their strategic applications and databases from an IDS/ll platform to a Linux-based x86 environment on a PostgreSQL database. Yet despite the clear benefits, the plan initially faced major roadblocks, with exit barriers bigger than initially anticipated. The most daunting challenge: the Customer’s mainframe applications’ millions of lines of code, which would have required painstaking translation before they could be transitioned to the destination platform.
The customer also faced pushback from key internal teams, who voiced concerns about costly and laborious manual recoding of the agency’s hyperscale workloads, including the sensitive personal and financial data of millions of users. What’s more, they argued, any potential disruption of the agency’s daily business applications could result in heavy government fines and serious damage to their credibility.
During this initial project exploration our team was asked to do an in-depth assessment of the existing database and applications, as well as the project’s modernization objectives. While we recognized the potential risks, fortunately we were able to provide a uniquely customizable solution, including technology to speed up the code translation process, maintain strict data security and ensure seamless transition with virtually no downtime.
Automation lets you subtract human error from the equation
Manually recoding millions of lines of code from one language, such as COBOL, to a more modern syntax is an arduous, error-prone process. What’s more, the bigger and more diversified the organization the greater the delays, since errors and even fixes fail to be communicated across teams—leading to weeks and even months being wasted as team after team repeatedly reinvents the same wheel.
Fortunately, our team was able to offer a time- and error-saving solution, with proprietary automated processes that could modernize millions of lines of existing code to the new Linux platform with far greater speed and accuracy than manual translation.
The initial challenge was to reproduce the behavior of the original system on a Linux platform. mLogica’s LIBER*M replatforming technology was deployed to functionally replace batch and transactional applications on Linux using our LIBER*COBOL compiler, ensuring compatibility with the target architecture.
Hardened security for an increasingly perilous world
Since this project involved current and historical personal and financial data belonging not just to the agency, but twelve million citizens nationwide, the Customer required a fully hardened migration to avert any mishaps. After our team migrated the agency’s data from the existing IDS/ll database to the PostgreSQL database, we conducted comprehensive testing to ensure the security of the applications now running in the Linux environment.
mLogica’s team performed test cases outlined in artifacts and process maps shared by the Customer, and conducted a comprehensive security analysis across the attack surface of the destination Linux platform to root out and eliminate any potential security gaps.
Getting database functionality and savings you need without the risk
Business leaders rightly want to mitigate risk – after all, minimizing organizational hazards is how many of them became leaders. But, as with this Customer, when the downsides inherent in the status quo make change unavoidable, the key is recognizing the benefits of making that transition while clearly assessing and, to the extent possible, eliminating the risks.
For organizations facing the sobering realities of their outdated mainframes, including lack of technical agility and scalability, plus the mounting costs of application licensing and supporting outdated infrastructure, the tipping point is now. Fortunately, automated migration technology is the game-changer, allowing internal IT teams to continue their daily business activities and freeing leadership from the frustrating delays, business disruptions and cost overruns created by manual, in-house migrations.
And just like any dysfunctional relationship, when you finally part ways with your mainframe, you’ll be amazed by the freedom and power you now have…and so will your competition.