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Many publications, white papers and System Integrator websites trumpet the benefits of retiring the mainframe platform. Among the claimed benefits are up to 90% reduction in operating expenses, reduced time for competitive upgrades, and improved business agility. 
One may wonder why modernisation and migration remains among the top three CIO priorities but relatively few modernisation projects actually happen. I believe it to be a mix of inertia and misunderstanding.  Apart from being locked into a single provider, organizations still heavily reliant on mainframes face four increasing handicaps: 

  1. Time-to-market: Launching new services is a long and slow process – and your competitors seem to be able to do it quicker.  
  2. Aging SMEs: Lack of new mainframe talent is becoming more and more apparent.
  3. Lack of access to best-in-class software: The number of vendors developing innovative new products for the z/OS platform is dwindling.
  4. High maintenance costs: With additional CPU capacity and memory priced at a premium, and business rules hard coded, system changes are costly and time-consuming. 

If mainframes are such expensive and complex computing devices, and better and cheaper alternatives exist, then why are so many mainframes still in use?

Journey to the “New World” 

A successful modernisation project requires careful coordination between several parties. In our experience, there are three main parties required for a successful mainframe migration – 

  1. The System Integrator (SI)
  2. Software vendors 
  3. The client 

LRS has worked with a number of SI’s over the years… much to the benefit of our mutual clients. We also work with various modernisation software vendors, including TmaxSoft, with whom LRS will be presenting a series of seminars called “Dispelling the Myths of Mainframe Modernisation.” These seminars will focus on two critically important aspects of modernisation. LRS will discuss output management, while TmaxSoft will cover the topic of rehosting.

The seminars will run in Edinburgh and London, in early March.  For those able to attend, registration information is given at the end of this article. For those who cannot, read on to learn the critical role an SI, a software vendor, and the client play in a successful modernisation project. 

Role of the System Integrator

It is typically the System Integrator that initiates the discussion with the organisation. They are the main interface to the client’s executive management team.

As such, the SI delivers the main proposal on how the client can meet the digital challenge, gain competitive advantage, and reduce costs. The SI will have honed their processes and selected ‘best in class’ technologies to allow it to offer a service that is typically at a fixed cost and backed up by a clearly defined methodology, proven ROI and customer references. 

With regard to the ‘best in class’ technologies, the SI will have a toolkit full of third party solutions to address such areas as:

  • File Transfer
  • Security 
  • Job scheduling
  • Sort 
  • Monitoring and management 
  • Document composition 
  • Library utilities
  • Print functions / output management 
  • Document archives 
  • Data transforms (such as AFP to PDF)
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Role of the Output Management software vendor (LRS)

Output management is an important, but often overlooked, aspect of a successful modernisation project. Why is it critical to consider output management in mainframe migration?

The documents and output that are created on the z/OS system won’t be created in the same way in the “New World” of open systems. In the vast majority of cases, mainframe programs were designed to generate output using carriage controls and forms control buffers. The data would also have a record format, meaning that each report’s records could be of fixed or variable length.

The output may be designed with an AFP PAGEDEF/FORMDEF to format the data into a graphically-rich AFP data stream. Or, the program may insert Xerox Dynamic Job Descriptor Entry (DJDE) statements meant to be interpreted in order to load FORMs and perform other specific functions at the print device.

LRS can play a key role in the success of your modernisation project by ensuring that these challenges are handled correctly and that you can process the data coming out of your ‘lift and shift’ runtime environment. This ensures that the mainframe-formatted data is correctly handled when sent to modern networked printers.  

Similarly, LRS can convert your AFP or LCDS/DJDE data into PDF for online viewing. The ability to preserve and electronically share such legacy-formatted data helps you both leverage your existing document investments and comply with various regulations about data retention.

Consider the documents you currently store within your mainframe archives – such as Control-D, CA-View, RSD EOS, etc.  What compliancy and regulatory rules apply to these documents?  Once the mainframe is switched off, how will you access such documents?

LRS has built up both expertise and a dedicated ‘migration practice’ to address this very specific business need.  That being to migrate all documents to an open systems platform that lets you:

  • Maintain data integrity and data retention/deletion policies 
  • Allow easy viewing with an intuitive web-based GUI

With LRS, your modernised data can play nicely with the Windows or Linux platforms that power your business today and in the future. We have the products to simplify the modernisation process, and — just as importantly — a deep understanding of both modern and legacy technologies.

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Role of the rehosting software vendor (TmaxSoft)

Rehosting has been proven to dramatically reduce infrastructure and operating costs, which can then be reallocated to innovation – including rewriting of legacy applications.

The TmaxSoft Open Frame software allows a company to rehost its mainframe and business critical applications. One such example is a leading financial organisation, which selected TmaxSoft to rehost its Portfolio Management System (PMS) suite of applications running on the mainframe to COBOL running with Oracle. 

PMS was built by the customer in 1987 and began its life as a 20,000-account schedule system without any interfaces. The modernisation of the PMS application suite and the data that drove it with OpenFrame took nearly a year to complete. 

The financial organisation’s annual run cost for the PMS system and related applications fell by 66%, and the overall application footprint shrunk by 78%. While the cost savings were enormous, the most positive result was moving to a platform that integrated easily with the rest of the business to support growth and innovation.

Rehosting allows you to do it right and do it fast – faster and with less risk than rewriting. This provides a flexible foundation to quickly respond to market change and future integration requirements.

Many SI’s have global strategic initiatives with cloud providers – and TmaxSoft OpenFrame is the preferred technology for rehosting in many of these initiatives.  

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Role of the Client

The most important part of any migration is you – the client. Our experience and success tells us that the absolute key to a successful migration is clear and regular dialogue with the client.

As part of the process, a detailed and thorough implementation plan is produced – which is based on the initial assessment and analysis phase.  We must have a thorough understanding of the needs and goals of the CIO, the IT division and the business.  Constant communication at every stage is our mantra.  As both the provider of up-front information and the recipient of the resulting solution, your input is critical to the success of any modernisation project.
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For more information, contact LRS and/or attend our seminar and we will help in “Dispelling the Myths of Mainframe Modernisation.” The seminars are scheduled for the following dates and locations:

7th March 2017 from 9am-12pm followed by an informal lunch: Regus, 9-10 Andrew Street, Edinburgh 

9th March 2017 from 9am-12pm followed by an informal lunch: Regus, 25 Canada Square, London 

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