By Richard Arneson
COBOL. Remember it? Haven’t heard that name in a while, right? No, it hasn’t gone the way of Novell Networks or Blockbuster Video. Even though it dates back to the 1950’s, it’s still used, and used widely, today. In fact, according to InformationWeek, over seventy percent (70%) of business transactions are still processed by COBOL; or, as it’s never referred to as, Common-Oriented Business Language. But if you do hear “COBOL”, know this—it can’t be combined with the word modernization.
Application modernization allows organizations to advance legacy apps into ones that are more nimble, can reduce costs and, better still, free up time so IT staff can work on more forward-thinking, business-changing initiatives. But application modernization doesn’t refer to ripping out legacy apps and building new versions from the ground up. It’s like a frame up car restoration—the bones stay, but the application gets an overhaul to be more cloud- and mobile-friendly. The degree to which an application needs to be modernized can vary greatly. Some may require a heavy dose of re-coding, while others may need less invasive upgrades. For instance, IBM still utilizes applications that were written for mainframes fifty (50) years ago; as you might imagine, modernizing those applications would require a considerable amount of work.
If you’re looking at modernizing applications, consider the following:
Don’t be a wallflower
Don’t be shy. Solicit information, and lots of it. Get out there and talk to applications’ users. There’s no such thing as too much feedback. If you give this consideration short shrift, you’ll be unnecessarily complicating your modernization goals. Talking to users will provide you with a wealth of information, including issues you won’t find in documentation. They’ll probably be able to relay golden nuggets of information that has never been considered by the IT staff. Without this level of upfront education, re-coding will be required, deployment will be delayed, and architects will lose their senses of humor.
If it ain’t broke…
There’s no law that requires organizations to modernize applications. Remember, IBM is successfully using legacy applications that perform as well today as they did when LBJ was president. Don’t assume all applications need to be “modernized.” Don’t get hung up on that word.
…but if it is
If you’ve determined that particular applications can no longer be saddled as “legacy”, make sure to look for any redundant code in them prior to attempting to make them mobile-, cloud- or digital-ready. This code-level detective work, if done properly and comprehensively, can reduce costs and enhance efficiencies.
Map how data flows throughout the organization and your migration will thank you for it
One (1) of the biggest challenges facing application modernization involves understanding how data is represented in legacy applications and those with which it integrates. In other words, understand applications’ interdependencies with other apps, including which data flows to, and from, them. And, of course, know how it flows. Without comprehensively mapping how data flows through your organization, count on costs going up and efficiency going down.
Once data flows are understood and documented, they need to be scrubbed clean and standardized. If you skip this step, “garbage in, garbage out” will soon be ringing through the hallways. And standardizing data (a great use of automation) means applications agree on what is, and isn’t, considered data. The result? Applications can more easily sync with other applications, which helps the data migration progress more smoothly.
Another great use of automation is in the testing phase, and automating processes is both a time saver and a headache reliever. Speed aside, it’s simply a more accurate and objective way to handle application testing.
Partition data to optimize performance
Data volumes are increasing exponentially, which makes partitioning it all the more important if you’re at all interested in performance optimization (trust me, you are). Partitions can be constructed through automation to separate data, so only the data needed can more easily be accessed and managed. And it simplifies data archiving.
Questions about application and data center modernization?
For more information about how your organization can develop or enhance its road to digital transformation, call on the expert solutions architects and engineers at GDT. For years they’ve been helping customers of all sizes, and from all industries, realize their digital transformation goals by designing and deploying innovative, cutting-edge solutions that shape their organizations and help them realize positive business outcomes. Contact them at SolutionsArchitects@gdt.com or at Engineering@gdt.com. They’d love to hear from you.