Boston College Jumpstarts Legacy Modernization with Advanced

14/02/2014 minute read Rob Anderson

Advanced wins VSAM conversion project on speed, accuracy of database modernization solution.

Gartner recently scored Legacy Modernization as the #3 priority of CIOs, behind only Cloud Computing and Business Intelligence/Analytics. However, companies have invested decades of time, money and effort in these applications and should not expect to extricate themselves from the limitations of these systems in a few months. Whether organizations modernize in one step, or gradually shift workloads to new platforms or new technologies, they must work from realistic timelines, which in most cases can last one-to-three-years. Project timelines are critical. Tools and techniques that shave off months or even weeks from migration can have a great impact on ROI and the overall success of the project. Boston College (BC) leveraged Advanced in such a manner, using our Automated Conversion services to accelerate their transition from legacy systems to Kuali Student, a commercial off-the-shelf system for managing student information.

Boston College: The Legacy Modernization Business Case

BC had been using a student information system written in the 1970s, which had since been managed by several different resources with minimal documentation. Compliance rules prompted maintenance of the business logic of this application, which BC's IT resources described as "organ transplant to organ transplant".  Moving to Kuali Student gave BC the benefits of reduced hosting and management cost and effort- as well as better reporting and more efficient archiving. The scale of BC's overall legacy migration effort was daunting- including applications, networking and infrastructure, the IT team put a 6-year timeline on the total project. Therefore, any and every effort to maintain or increase project pace mattered.

The Details

BC sought to convert their core VSAM database to a relational model using Oracle. Due to the conditions surrounding the data- and the database itself- BC thought a manual rewrite was their only choice. For starters, the VSAM database was small, but extremely complex: 40 VSAM files, many different record layouts and several components that were necessary to keep but did not conform to the file layouts supplied by the BC IT team. Additionally, the database included Personally Identifiable Information (PII), so any testing efforts would have to meet privacy and security standards.

Advanced won the project with a combination of a quickly executed and successful Proof of Concept. When the project started, we were also able to mask the test data, meeting required privacy and security standards. Our Automated Conversion technology enabled us to extract the relevant information from the application and use it to improve the overall data model and transformation process.

The Impact

The Boston College team had a positive experience with Advanced’s people and our technology. The two biggest benefits of this experience for BC were:

  • Reduced Risk: Our approach also enabled BC to "pick and choose" the order of applications to be modernised, providing for more granular preparation by BC team in accordance to project schedule
  • Reduced Time-to-Target: The BC team described our approach as "really fast, enabling us to maintain our schedule and actually make up ground in other areas."

The Best Practises

With each successful project, it's amazing how legacy migration projects can touch every aspect of the business strategy, process, channels and technology. When planning for and implementing legacy modernisation programs, remember to:

  • Secure C-level support and leadership - The business must drive and help institute change management programs to guide corporate change as systems are retired, replaced and improved.
  • Consolidate systems - This is often the first step in overcoming legacy system migration challenges.  Reduce the complexity of IT infrastructures by rationalising and consolidate IT assets.
  • Respect your elders - Remember that legacy applications sometimes have over 30 years of business logic, much of which isn't documented.  Be careful and know the truth about what you've got before setting your path for legacy modernisation.