Mainframe Propeller Head

Sep 10 2008   1:38PM GMT

A Q&A on mainframe application modernization

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

Exchange Server ActiveSync

When you think of mainframe application modernization, you tend to think of two things: SOA (Web services) or migration. That is, put a pretty face on it or get off. Well, Tim Pacileo, the principal consultant at Compass America Inc., said it doesn’t have to be that way. Compass is an IT and business operations consultant based in Naperville, Ill., just outside of Chicago. Pacileo sat down with me to talk about application modernization on the mainframe. There’s no doubt that a lot of the talk is about Web services, but that’s not the only option.

Compass just came out with five tips to build your application modernization case. Talk about tip 1 — justifying the cost — and how it relates to mainframes.

On the mainframe, when a particular application runs out of capacity or fails to meet the needs of the business, rather than touch that application and go through several reversions and updates, most organizations will just throw people at it. On the other end, we’re seeing a lot of core legacy applications with a lack of flexibility preventing the environment from doing what it needs to do. We’ll look at various options, such as replacing part of the core application or migrating off the platform.

Is it always about getting rid of the application or migrating?

There are some options. One company I worked with a few years ago, their goal was to not get off the mainframe for another 10 years. There was no compelling business driver to get off the mainframe. What we looked at there was enhancing that application with some Web-based solutions so people could get in with a browser and look at their data.

Are migration and browser-like functionality the only options?

No. You can change the nature of the mainframe. With another customer, we are moving them from Cobol CICS to turning the mainframe basically into a large database server and enhancing that with DB2 applications.

We’ll see some customers come to us and say that they want to stay on the mainframe. It’s a proven environment. I can have hundreds of applications on a mainframe environment. We’re talkinga bout virtualization now, but the mainframe has been virtualized for decades. And we do see organizations running multiple Linux applications on the mainframe. We’re seeing some growth in that area.

Others say that they want to get off the mainframe because they don’t want to be the last person standing. Some of those core applications are too expensive to modernize or migrate, and so they’re looking to move to some off-the-shelf applications.

What are some of those core applications?

Normally they’re homegrown applications. Health care is one. Government has a lot of homegrown applications, and they don’t have the functionality they need. The legislature keeps making changes, and it’s a Herculean effort to keep up with it.

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