Monday, September 8, 2014

Modernizing Mainframe Applications (Part 2)

In the previous post on Modernizing Mainframe Applications, we discussed the various things to consider when an organization is considering using a Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) package. We will be discussing the second option: To run the application on a distributed platform.

The first question to ask is why would you want to do that? Is it cost? Is it because of available tools? Whatever the reason, the following questions need to be asked:
  1. How much is the software cost? This cost will include the programming language, server operating system, database licensing.
  2. How much is the hardware cost? How many servers will you need to set up the environments? Remember you will need to set up at least the Development, Test and Production environments.
  3. How much will it cost to set up the migration process across environments?
  4. Will the new set up provide the required throughput for the application? One of the advantages of the mainframe is that the program and the database and the other components all reside on one machine. There is no latency so to speak across systems. With a distributed system, you will need to consider the latency.
  5. How will you set up your disaster recovery? With the mainframe, you just need to backup the number of physical boxes you have. In a distributed system, you will need to backup all the environments. If these were virtual environments, that will probably be easier than if these were physical hardware.
  6. Your mainframe programming languages must have equivalent compilers on the distributed system. If you also have cross-language interfaces, COBOL programs calling PL/1 programs or vice-versa, you may have some difficulties in making your program work.
  7. What training do you need to get your support people up to speed to be able to support the new environment?
The third option is probably the least risky. This is to leverage the existing mainframe programs and write modern interfaces around them. With this option, your application still runs on the mainframe but you can make them serve web pages and use them on tablets and smartphones. In any case, the following questions need to be asked:
  1. What software is needed to modernize your applications? There are a number of products in the market that claim they can do this, but one of the problems is they may be difficult to install on the mainframe. 
  2. Depending on the design, you may also need new infrastructure to be able modernize your application. Some applications allow you to leverage the existing mainframe software to modernize your applications while some may require other software.
  3. What is the licensing cost for the software you will be using?
  4. How much training is needed to support the new infrastructure?
In these three options, one needs to make sure that vendor claims are substantiated with proofs. Bottomline is there is no ideal solution. The solution should fit the organization requirements. However, these should also be weighed against the risk and investment the organization is willing to make.

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