This blog is for Mainframe Modernization professionals to discuss and share perspectives, point of views and best practices around key trending topics. Discover the ART and science of mainframe modernization.

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Renew mainframes for digital readiness and new user experience [Part 4/6]

We briefly touched upon three modernization strategies from Infosys in an earlier blog. If you remember, it was stated that in order to address the challenges that come with modernization and provide a non-disruptive way to modernize mainframe systems, we have a new ART (Accelerate, Renew and Transform) approach. Detailing out the 'Accelerate strategy' in the previous blog, today's blog would talk about the RENEW strategy to Modernize Mainframes.

The RENEW strategy focusses on using the existing mainframe assets and exposing them as services or APIs - making them digital ready for enhanced user experience, reducing the development lifecycle time by employing the agile processes and automation through DevOps, and improving agility by modularization and rationalization of code modules and externalizing business rules from the code.

The below diagram depicts the different Renew Solution levers that could be applied for API enablement, business rule extraction and externalization, implementation of CI/CD on Mainframe portfolio and componentization and consolidation of business functions:


4. Renew_4of6.png


It's been observed that 43% of IT executives (a) believe that a failure to integrate with legacy systems is the biggest barrier to implement future initiatives and this barrier results in high IT costs*. There are various ways to integrate back with the mainframe applications and data and I have described the most popular methods below:

1. Emulator based integration: The Mainframe black screen (CICS, IMS etc.) can be integrated via Screen Scrapping technology tools like IBM HATS, Open Legacy, LegaSuite. This provides quick and easy GUI Integration and delivers a new user experience at a relatively fast time to market.

2. Process Integration: It enables monolithic legacy code to be exposed as service and easily build APIs. The Mainframe Services / APIs can be exposed to the distributed, digital systems. The different integration patterns utilize various compatible integrators that expose the mainframe components as services/ API's like CICS Transaction Gateway, CICS Web services (REST / SOAP), CICS Transaction Server Integration, MQ based integration, IMS Connect, zOS connect. The messaging to these APIs and services can be orchestrated through any ESB's or API Gateway. This option provides integration option to multi-platform applications and enables loosely coupled services.

3. Data Integration: It enables access to data from system of records repositories on zOS. The interfacing application is only dependent to fetch data from the Mainframe and business logic, and integration layer is built outside the Mainframe. This pattern is useful where the data can be fetched in one pass and the aggregation and business rules are applied in the integration layer outside the mainframe.

Just to give an example - for one of our health insurance client, as a part of a large digital initiative, we had to enable the "Find a Doctor" feature for various user provided search parameters. The book of record for maintaining the doctor information was existing on the Mainframe DB2 DB. On analysis, we realized that a few mainframe COBOL modules /API's were already available, that could be reused to realize this functionality. We were able to perform a process integration and use one of the prevalent integration pattern in the client ecosystem (CICS MQ based integration) and expose the mainframe components as services. This design option reduced the overall development time and helped in achieving the desired client goal, in a timely fashion.

Most of our clients also complain about how changing a small piece of code on their legacy mainframe applications takes a long time. When we analyzed applications for few of these clients, we discovered that most of the business rules were hardcoded and maintained over a period of time. The knowledge of those business rules was embedded in the code and SME knowledge had diminished over a period of time.

As part of our renew strategy, we recommend our clients to maintain the knowledge of business rules deployed and if possible, externalize them to be maintained by the business users. To reduce the time to introduce any change, we also recommend the adoption of CI/CD methodology for developing and deploying mainframe applications. The usage of CI/CD toolset helps in better productivity and quality with quick analysis showing application structure and relationships, free up MIPS for production use and eliminate delays by providing low cost environment, and accelerates delivery time with improved governance across the SDLC. We assist our clients in integration and configuration of the CI/CD tools, from IBM or Microfocus, in their eco systems and assist in formulating a rollout strategy.


Have you considered renewing your mainframe landscape to reuse the investments already made on mainframes?


*References: https://www.mulesoft.com/webinars/esb/unlocking-legacy-systems-enterprise-mobility

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