Rising licensing costs and a shrinking pool of talent are driving organisations to seek alternatives to Natural and Adabas applications. However, the act of moving on from this legacy landscape can be rife with risk.
We spoke to mainframe expert Cindy Howard, Vice President of Technology and Solutions at Advanced, to discuss how to overcome those risks with modernisation. What do you need to consider when you’re mapping a migration path? What are the most common mistakes and how can you avoid them? What hurdles can you expect to find along your modernisation journey?
A small excerpt follows, or you can watch the full discussion here.
- What are the common drivers you’re seeing for Natural and Adabas modernisation?
“One of the biggest drivers is Natural not being taught in [higher education] anymore. This has impacted other organisations that concentrated on teaching Natural too, including Software AG, causing numbers to dwindle even further.
“Other universities are teaching C#, Java and the other languages that are really intended to be off the mainframe. We are seeing a lot of people who have lost the Natural skills and are no longer sure how this application even works.
“What’s more, organisations are feeling the pinch as licensing fees are increasing. We have many organisations coming to us that do not want to pay the extremely high costs and asking what they can do instead.
“Being able to have the resources you need to continue development and the high costs involved with licensing and maintaining the applications are the main drivers to modernise.”
- What are the most common concerns or pain points that emerge in early conversations to modernise?
“If we're taking talking directly to the technical teams, the people who know Natural well, we get asked: “What's the new code going to look like? Are we going to be able to maintain it as easily as we could maintain the other code? Are we going to be able to easily understand it?”
“If we're talking to management and stakeholders the usual questions include, “How quickly can you do this? How can you guarantee that it's perfect? How do you make sure the data goes across? How do you make sure that the Natural applications that are converted are going to operate exactly as they do today? We don't want to retrain our end user community!”
“We take care of all those questions by showing samples and taking them into the code to try and put them at ease. After which the questions become “How much is it going to cost?”, “How long will it take?” and “When can you start?” - and we need to demonstrate cost of ownership is greatly reduced.”
- From your perspective and experience, what are the most viable options for modernising Natural / Adabas?
“There are a variety of things that you can do.
“If you're going to buy an off the shelf package, we can assist to take the database data, which is not relational, and offload it into a relational format so that it can be easily used by the people who are implementing the new off the shelf packages.
“We also work around the conversion of the database and Natural application at the same time. So those databases can go to any relational technology SQL Server. If the need is to stay on the mainframe, that's possible too.
“If the preference is to keep Natural, that can also be done. You would take it off the mainframe and run it in a Windows environment and have your Natural processing against that brand new relational database instead of an Adabas database. This will eliminate Software AG licences and still provide Natural for your team to continue working with.
“Our technology will allow you to go to C#, Java, COBOL, or to stay with Natural if preferred. The database always goes to relational and the language can change or it can remain the same. And the platform is completely independent of Advanced. You can implement anything that we have delivered to you - it’s native for that platform and native for that language.”
Watch the full roundtable with Cindy Howard and Rob Anderson from Advanced.
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