We spoke with Cindy Howard, Vice President of Technology and Solutions, an expert in mainframe modernisation. Our discussion revolved around legacy systems that rely on relatively obscure technologies like Natural and Adabas. But before that, Rob Anderson, Vice President of Marketing and Product, highlights the growing trends of updating these legacy systems. The reasons are mainly threefold:
- The lack of expertise in Natural and Adabas is a problem, especially when compared to more common technologies such as COBOL. This skill deficit impacts users of these systems more heavily.
- Financial aspects like increasing infrastructure costs and licensing fees from companies like Software AG play a significant role. As the technology becomes less common, its cost rises, prompting the need for change.
- The burden of technical debt and infrastructure issues of older systems is considerable. Without the benefits of innovation found in modern technology, users are incentivised to update their systems to gain access to the efficiencies of current tech.
What’s the fundamental process that Advanced follows when approaching legacy modernisation for Natural and Adabas?
Cindy Howard: “Our approach to legacy modernisation with Natural and Adabas involves an initial assessment phase to collect source code and gather necessary elements like JCL and COBOL. We address skill gaps and eliminate duplicates, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the infrastructure. The subsequent phases focus on database and application code conversion, running in parallel. We provide tools for database extraction and offer options for application replatforming or conversion. Thorough testing, deployment, and post-implementation support follow. Our turnkey solution leverages our experience to reduce risks and costs, providing a smooth transition for clients.”
Tell us about the recent rehost project you’ve completed with a national group insurance benefits provider.
Cindy Howard: “During the rehosting process, the team we worked with was fantastic and easy to collaborate with. The applications were primarily built with Natural and Adabas. As we assessed their system, we observed a significant amount of report mode code, which we converted to structure mode for assessment and conversion purposes.
One notable challenge was dealing with data fields that didn't adhere to the defined FDT specifications. Numeric fields, for instance, often contained different data types. We had to determine the best approach, such as creating separate tables or overlaying data, to handle these inconsistencies. The testing phase uncovered a few issues related to past practices and infrequent executions.
Ultimately, the team successfully went live with their new applications, resulting in a smooth transition. The quiet and uneventful go-live was a positive outcome, reflecting the desired stability and success of the project.”
We did a refactor project for a Fortune 100 financial services company recently. Can you tell us a little bit about how that went?
Cindy Howard: “The customer initially planned to take a DIY approach, using our tooling to perform the conversion themselves. They had a skilled offshore team experienced in Natural and Adabas who would utilise the tooling, generate new code, and handle testing and integration. However, as the project progressed, they realised it was a significant undertaking for a single team. We stepped in and took charge of the conversion process, transitioning their code from Natural to Java.
The customer had their own framework processing and other activities surrounding the delivery of the converted code and the new database. They dedicated ample time to thorough testing, particularly for the interfaces with various agencies and financial institutions. This project showcased their exceptional testing efforts and their ability to integrate effectively.
Within their organization, they became the leading system integrator (SI), while we focused on generating the new code and databases. The project was highly successful, thanks to the collaboration of skilled individuals who exhibited creativity and ensured a solution that would benefit them for years to come.”
Watch the full discussion with Cindy Howard and Rob Anderson from Advanced.
Read our latest eBook Natural and Adabas Modernisation on the best low risk options when modernising Natural/Adabas environments.