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Non-Disruptive Renewal of Mainframe Systems

By Rafee Tarafdar, Associate Vice President and Unit Technology Officer, Infosys, @InfosysPS

Government organizations run most of their applications on mainframe systems. With increasing citizen expectations, rapidly evolving technologies, and pressure to do more, faster and with less, they are investing in modernization of their mainframe systems. However, given the inherent complexity and risks, how can government organizations renew their mainframe systems in a non-disruptive manner?
The first step is to understand the mainframe footprint, its usage to support critical business processes, the benefits, constraints and challenges imposed by it. Most of the mainframe enterprise users could be categorized into 3 tiers:

  • Tier 1. Less than 4000 MIPS – Small footprint of IT landscape running on mainframe. The extent of change done to these systems is minimal. The run cost of the mainframe portfolio is comparatively high and should be optimized to reduce cost and improve agility.
  • Tier 2. 4000 – 40,000 MIPS – Mainframe footprint is a significant part of IT landscape and most of core systems (systems of record and systems of differentiation) run on mainframe. These systems typically undergo lots of BAU changes and enhancements to support the key business and digital initiatives.
  • Tier 3. 40,000 – 200,000 MIPS – Most of the core mission critical transactions systems run on mainframe. The run cost of mainframe portfolio is relatively not very high and the mainframe application portfolio is continuously evolving to meet the changing business and digital needs.
    For organizations in Tier 1, cost optimization is the biggest driver. For organizations in Tier-2, time to market, agility and cost optimization are key drivers. For organizations in Tier-3, the bigger drivers are ageing workforce, agility to support digital initiatives and unlocking value of mainframe assets.
    And, not every organization needs to completely overhaul its mainframe portfolio. To identify the best approach of renewing the mainframe system in a non-disruptive manner and amidst various constraints, organizations can adopt ART (Accelerate, Renew and Transform) approach.

    • Accelerate focuses on optimizing the run cost of the mainframe portfolio. Some of the ways to do this include consolidation or standardization of mainframe programs, lowering millions of instructions per second (MIPS), or re-hosting of the system on public or private cloud
    • Renew focuses on improving agility, time to market and firelaning of mainframe applications to integrate with newer user experience channels. Some of the ways include externalizing rules, modularizing and de-coupling the mainframe system, provisioning existing business logic and data as APIs, and implementing DevOps and automation
    • Transform focuses on strategically migrating applications out of mainframe to next generation architecture and platforms. This can be done by implementing a commercial-off-the-shelf package or platform, or re-engineering the system into next-gen architecture by leveraging cloud, mobile, open-source etc.
      ART approach can be enabled through the following key levers:

      • People + Software: Automation using tools and accelerators to accelerate the knowledge discovery, optimization, renewal, migration and testing activities. Automation coupled with modernization SMEs can shrink the timelines of these renewal projects by up to 30%
      • Knowledge (What, Why, How): Use of discovery and reverse engineering tools that automatically convert knowledge of existing system into a readable format and help address the challenges related to lack of system knowledge etc. These tools can help perform ‘what-if’ analysis, build correlation between code and issues/tickets/logs, determine critical paths, map it to business process and capabilities and use it to make modernization decisions (retain, retire, optimize, invest, transform etc.)
      • Deconstruction: Deconstructing the mainframe portfolio into a set of firelanes and each firelane being ring-fenced so that it could be evolved independently with minimal impact to the other programs/applications. Deconstruction into firelanes requires analysis of the mainframe portfolio through multiple lenses – business (core, differentiated and commoditized business capabilities), rate of change (required across the different tiers of applications from front office to back office), and technical complexity.
      • Business Case: As most of the mainframe systems have evolved over a period of time and would be stable, there has to be a very strong business case to accelerate, renew or transform out of mainframe. While cost is an important driver, it’s always worth looking at other drivers like improved time to market for business initiatives, delivering new business capabilities, new customer experience and new business models to build a compelling case.

        Read more about the non-disruptive approach for mainframe modernization here –