Legacy is No Longer in Our Vocabulary

Written by Tod Tompkins

The federal government is facing the most acute budget challenges in a generation, and it doesn’t help that much of its technology sits on platforms last updated a generation ago. COBOL is a programming language that runs many business and government systems. Rewriting COBOL into other, more modern languages is time consuming and expensive. We should keep our mission-critical assets up and running by migrating mainframe COBOL business applications; allowing agencies to re-host their systems to run on the modern platforms and write in modern programming languages, while saving millions in the process.

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Our Live Twitter Q&A with @JulianDobbins

Last week, Micro Focus took part in a live Twitter Q&A with Julian Dobbins, product marketing, agile software delivery at Micro Focus. If you missed our online chat you’ll find the transcribed conversation below, so you can follow our discussion about IT modernization best practices, trends, and insights.

Last week, Micro Focus took part in a live Twitter Q&A with Julian Dobbins, product marketing, agile software delivery at Micro Focus. If you missed our online chat you’ll find the transcribed conversation below, so you can follow our discussion about IT modernization best practices, trends, and insights.

Follow Micro Focus on Twitter: @MicroFocus
Follow Julian Dobbins on Twitter: @juliandobbins 

@JulianDobbins: What software priorities do businesses have for 2011?

@MicroFocus: According to @Forrester, 66% say legacy modernization is top priority  

@MicroFocus: ‘Doing more with less’ is still king of the hill – but the business won’t thank you without innovation  

@JulianDobbins: Why are more businesses modernizing existing applications instead of ripping and replacing?  

@MicroFocus: Existing business logic often provides the ‘secret sauce’ – throw it away at your peril  

@MicroFocus: Put another way… 80% cost reduction on a 12-18 month ROI is hard to ignore!  

@JulianDobbins: What are the business risks of an out-of-date IT infrastructure?  

@MicroFocus: Unsupported hardware and inflexible, poorly understood apps are the enemies of efficiency and innovation

@MicroFocus: A classic case of a stitch in time saves 9: Leave it too long, costs go up, willingness to fix goes down  

@JulianDobbins: How does an organization know when they need to modernize their existing business infrastructure?

@MicroFocus: Modernization isn’t a one-off activity, it’s an on-going state of mind. Just like housework and exercise  

@MicroFocus: Just as one should exercise regularly, companies should run regular tests to ensure apps run well  

@JulianDobbins: Is testing involved in recognizing the need to modernize out-of-date infrastructure?  

@MicroFocus: Constantly testing or reviewing an application’s fit for the business is a crucial part of modernization  

@JulianDobbins: How much $ can be saved from modernizing existing applications vs. ripping and replacing?  

@MicroFocus: >70% savings in post-migration application costs are common. Recent example: $25m per year saved

@JulianDobbins: How much time can be saved from modernizing existing applications vs. ripping and replacing?  

@MicroFocus:  In some cases, years. We’ve seen rewrite projects fail completely.  We’veseen them never get started  

@JulianDobbins: Is modernizing more green than ripping and replacing?  

@MicroFocus: Yes – virtualizing apps and boosting platform utilization are key ‘green’ modernization activity  

@JulianDobbins: What is the average time investment needed for a typical IT modernization process?  

@MicroFocus: How long is your piece of string? Modernization is an on-going processes. It’s a state of mind  

@MicroFocus: Aclean CICS/COBOL migration can take months not years. As can UI improvements and Web service wrapping  

@JulianDobbins: So, you outline 10 best practices for an affective biz technology transformation. Let’s discuss  

@MicroFocus: Yes, based on what our customers are doing to modernize their portfolios, platforms and processes…  

@JulianDobbins: 1. Top-down app portfolio evaluation – What does this entail?  

@MicroFocus: Ahigh-level assessment of business value, cost and risk. Find out which appsmatter most (or least)  

@MicroFocus: Use the 80:20 rule. Start where it matters. It’s a means to an end – so set a scope and stick to it  

@JulianDobbins: 2. Obtaining senior sponsorship – Why is this essential?  

@MicroFocus: Big change often needs a big stick. Modernization touches everything. Siloed thinking is dangerous  

@JulianDobbins: 3. Identifying unique intellectual property – How can this be measured?  

@MicroFocus:  Commodity apps are easy to spot. Ex: Tesco’s core replenishment system was *not* commodity.  

@JulianDobbins: 4. Moving to the right platform for your business – How can you pick the right platform?  

@MicroFocus: The right platform for IT is the one that supports business growth. Saving $ is not enough  

@JulianDobbins: 5. Preserve / extend competitive differentiation in core apps – How do youstand out?  

@MicroFocus:  Differentiation locked behind a green screen is hard to see – extend ashigh-value web services  

@JulianDobbins: 6. Modernize your tooling – How do you maximize productivity with what they’ve got on hand?  

@MicroFocus: Use the latest tools you can for the skills you need – today & tomorrow. Gen-Y won’t thank you otherwise

@MicroFocus: 40% productivity gains mean more time to innovate – even if you’re still deploying on the same platform  

@JulianDobbins: 7. Build quality throughout the lifecycle – How do you measure quality at each step in the cycle?  

@MicroFocus: Quality means many things – # of defects is easy to track. For business alignment – communication is key  

@JulianDobbins: 8. Collaborate / encourage involvement – Why is stakeholder input critical?  

@MicroFocus:  Zero defects means nothing if the user ain’t getting what he needs. Things change.  Keep talking throughout  

@JulianDobbins: 9. Manage changes – How do you go above and beyond ‘just source code’?  

@MicroFocus: Change management is the heart of good software delivery – and that means code, tests, requirements…  

@JulianDobbins: 10. An app is for life, not just development – How do you ensure a long lifespan for your apps?  

@MicroFocus: Annual review process – rate apps for cost, risk and business value. It’s a habit worth getting into!  

@JulianDobbins: In addition to cost save, what other benefits have companies seen?  

@MicroFocus:  Stick close to the users – they’ll often be happy with 80% of features – that’s 20% faster to market  

@MicroFocus: Understand your portfolio – make the changes where they matter most; not the easy ones no one cares about  

@JulianDobbins: Are there times when modernizing simply isn’t an option?  

@MicroFocus: It’s always an option – but not always the *right* option. Commodity apps – a perfect fit for packages  

@JulianDobbins: How does @MicroFocus help their clients execute these steps?  

@MicroFocus: Through great tools that support customer choice and process efficiency… and through good partners  

@JulianDobbins: Do you have anything else to add?  

@MicroFocus: As ever, don’t take the vendor’s word for it – check out the case studies, speak to our references  

@MicroFocus: If you’re going to Gartner Symposium in Orlando, stop by the booth and say ‘hi!’

COBOL: Standing the test of time part three

Part 3 – Future-Proofing

The hi-tech world of IT embraces and celebrates ‘new’ more than any other industry. New, creative innovations enjoy a meteoric rise in popularity and interest – seemingly overnight – for the potential benefits they can deliver to early adopters. What do Smart phones, Tablet computers, iPods, social media, and wireless networking have in common? They were all innovations of the last decade, and already we can’t imagine life without some of them.

In a market crowded with new entrants each year, existing and established technologies have to fight to remain current, relevant and valuable. So how has COBOL, a fifty-year-old language, managed to remain a forerunner in the world of enterprise application development?

The answer lies in its adaptability. It evolved, and continues to evolve, according to the needs of the day by welcoming new phrases, new meanings, even letters, and by slowly retiring anything no longer used.

Consider the growing use of SOA and Web Services, and the range of technology elements – such as XML, WSDL, SOAP and others – the framework needs for things to talk together. Micro Focus was quick to market with tooling to allow the rapid creation of Web Service or SOA versions of existing COBOL applications.

These technologies have been introduced over the last thirty years or so:

And these platforms and environments have come into being during the same period:

These platforms and technologies share a common thread – the investment that Micro Focus has made to ensure these new environments are accessible from the COBOL world in a meaningful, practical sense. In most cases, Micro Focus was first to market with product technology that supported the new ‘standard’ and enabled deployment to new environments.

COBOL continues to evolve to take advantage of emerging technology: In 1974, 1985 and 2002 the COBOL language standard was updated. Micro Focus played its part both by participating in the standards body, and also being one of the pioneers of the new standard from a compliance perspective. This is illustrated by the ‘industry firsts’ to come from the Micro Focus stable.

We now see COBOL applications written decades ago being deployed to cloud, .NET and JVM. Micro Focus’ commitment to its customers is most emphatically provided through its backwards compatibility policy: That any COBOL, anywhere, that conforms to the standard(s) will compile with the latest product. This guaranteed forward path serves to keep applications current and provides a low-risk environment for systems development. This contrasts starkly to other technology options where the code was good for a couple of years but had to be rewritten because a compiler release had changed.

The outcome is that COBOL can be easily used as part of a leading-edge technology strategy, and part of contemporary deployment architecture, using SOA, websites, Application Servers etc. One healthcare provider took its applications, built using COBOL development technology licensed in 1984, and re-used the business logic more or less unchanged as part of a program to provide web-based access to those business applications via SOA. The underlying COBOL code remained unchanged as the work invested in COBOL by Micro Focus over the years ensured that the leap to SOA could be achieved without changing the core code.

The future brings undefined generations of technology innovation into view, renewing the requirement for investment, innovation and certification by Micro Focus on behalf of its customers. From the advances in deployment options, including cloud and mobile devices, to supporting mainframe CICS application running natively in Azure, as well as moving to Windows 8, Micro Focus will continue to invest proactively to ensure customers’ future strategic decisions allow their existing investments to remain secure and protected.

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction…A Step in the Right Direction

Written by Tod Tompkins

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSC) – or “Super Committee” – has the unenviable task of determining, and then recommending, ways in which the government can reduce the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. You read that correctly, six Democrats and six Republicans will have the responsibility to eliminate $1.5 trillion of the deficit over the next 10 years. Oh, and this will need to be completed, presented, and voted on by December 23, 2011…makes you want to keep your day job doesn’t it?

We applaud these 12 individuals for undertaking the massive effort at hand, and sincerely wish them the best of luck in their ability to slice, dice, and chop (or whatever that famous infomercial touts) the federal deficit. We also applaud the White House and Congress for taking the initiative to construct and appoint this Super Committee, especially for offering a mechanism to hear from the public. Yes, the JSC has launched a website that provides a forum for open feedback and recommendations, asking the question “What can we do to reduce our nation’s deficit?”

Apparently, we are in lock-step with the JSC. As you are aware, we recently launched this blog and microsite with the goal of driving awareness and ideas around how the government can cut costs. The difference is, we are focused on real cost-cutting initiatives that can be implemented in the near-term…in year one. As such, we are issuing a challenge to our readers, fans, and followers. Let’s keep those ideas rolling in – we will pull the “best-of-the-best” into a consolidated report (attribution included) and deliver it to the JSC. As a community, this will be our contribution to the cause, a laundry list of new, fresh, and innovative approaches for immediate cost savings.

In order to be considered, please make sure to submit your ideas via Facebook, Twitter, or commenting on this blog by November 21, 2011. We want to ensure the JSC receives our recommendations in time to be heard.

New Test Server Release

Increase test capacity to improve quality, accelerate your time to market, contain costs and focus on innovation.

The latest release of Micro Focus Studio Enterprise Edition Test Server (Test Server) is available from today, 4th October.

Test Server is a mainframe application execution environment on Windows, which means that applications running within the Test Server environment behave just as they would on the mainframe. So now it is possible to perform a variety of pre-production testing on low cost commodity hardware.

This means that test cycles are no longer constrained by scarce mainframe processing power.  In addition test capacity expands substantially, so you can scale up your testing easily to meet delivery timelines driven by the business.  It also means that your test environment can include business users and developers integration SOA applications with the mainframe.

By scaling up test capacity on a low-cost commodity platform, you can contain and even reduce the cost of testing, as well as reducing mainframe MIPS consumption. Quality improves as you are able to identify issues sooner in the development cycle, reduce costly rework and increase the testing that can be accomplished in shorter time frames. There’s also a valuable impact on innovation as your Java and .NET programmers gain access to a more responsive and accessible environment to perform testing on.

Find out more here >>