People have been preparing for the worst for ages, but modern Americans have turned it into an art form.
At the dawn of the Atomic Age, dear old Dads across the nation scrambled to build backyard shelters as the government stockpiled food in anticipation of "the day after". The spiraling inflation of the 1970s brought with it a spike in gold sales and backwoods land purchases. During the Clinton years, camo-clad survivalists prepared for the black chopper invasion, and Y2K made the concept of prepping go mainstream. But in the past few years, while survivalists stockpiled ammunition and MREs for the bitter end, an interesting prepper-driven movement has begun to take root in the technology sector. These survivalists aren't hunkered down in boarded up cabins in Montana or hiding on desert islands in the south Pacific, they're the C-Suite, sitting in high rises all across the globe trying to prepare for the mainframe apocalypse.
Mainframe Apocalypse? You Must Be Joking
"Apocalypse" is probably a bit extreme, but the fact is with the advent of mobile, the evolution of e-commerce, and new hardware and communications systems, companies have been forced to expand the ways in which legacy mainframe environments are used. Unfortunately, because of their architecture, these mainframe systems do not integrate well with modern-day IT environments, making the expansion of functionality very costly. To make matters worse, the evolution of software development from a procedural landscape to object-oriented design has opened a rift between the skills required to maintain mainframe systems and the skills being utilized by today’s developers in the design and implementation of modern software. In other words, the workforce available to understand old technologies is aging alongside the systems themselves.
These circumstances present a number of challenges when considering disaster preparedness plans:
- Although the legacy technology introduces risk, the rules and methods embedded in the functionality of the code continue to be relevant to the business, therefore retaining the business knowledge and concepts around transactional procedures housed in the legacy systems is of the utmost importance.
- Due to the age of the systems, their cluttered architecture, and the nature of employee turnover, the likelihood of obtaining useful documentation of business rules and code functionality is infinitely small.
- The present generation of application designers and programmers are often unfamiliar with the technologies and methods used in legacy systems development, thus rendering the systems almost impossible to understand, maintain, modify, and adapt to changing needs.
Accept Your Fate
At some point in the not-so-distant future, mainframe modernization will be a necessity. Regardless of whether your firm chooses to re-engineer, convert, optimize, or rehost the legacy system, there are a few key steps you can take today to mitigate risk and ease the transition into a modern environment down the road.
Document and Map the Source System
Understanding the details of an application and its interrelationships with other systems is absolutely necessary for nimble extensibility and an eventual successful modernization. A challenge for many companies is that little documentation exists, or is current, for many mainframe systems. The core business functionality that is built into these legacy systems is highly complex and extremely difficult to understand without the use of specially designed tools. Because of this, the tendency is to move forward without it. Obtaining good code understanding and creating documentation will help organizations move quickly to extend functionality, reduce coding errors, and make smart modernization decisions down the road.
Transitioning from non-relational to relational databases using replication is a powerful tool for unlocking mainframe data for consumption by modern BI tools and a huge step toward systemic modernization. The best part about database replication is that it can be done quickly and without impacting the business at all. The legacy database stays in place while the new relational database automatically synchronizes with it until the time comes to retire the old set up.
Offload Your MIPS
Mobile to business services is convenient and necessary to maintain competitive edge, but it has contributed to huge spikes in mainframe usage. Paying for MIPS utilization is one of the most costly line items in an IT budget. Consider offloading processes that require lots of processor cycles. By moving workloads away from the mainframe and onto modern infrastructure, companies can significantly reduce the cost of running their mainframe while inching toward a modern environment.
Companies of all sizes are grappling with aging, complex systems that are costly to maintain and too inflexible to support new business initiatives. Take our advice and be sure you're prepared to survive and thrive when mainframe apocalypse is nigh.