The Legacy Myth: Legendary IT

Legendary IT

So far in this blog series, we have introduced the question about “legacy” as a term in IT. We’ve spoken about the fallacy that legacy IT is bad. We’ve suggested that legacy should be considered in the positive or should at least be used more appropriately. We’ve heard from clients who have said “this isn’t legacy, this is my core business”. These functioning, valuable, long-standing core systems -far from being undesirable legacy – are “legendary”.

So the question isn’t so much “should we harness our so-called legacy?” The question ought to be, “how should we harness it?”

How have organizations gained more from their existing core systems without falling into the trap of seeing them as being ready for the trash? Let’s take a look at a five stage process of how Micro Focus customers have achieved the very best from the legendary assets they have at their disposal today.

Know IT

Without knowing what your legendary systems are, the value they bring, and what they do, the danger is that the value is not harnessed correctly. Over time, as knowledge of those systems also wastes away, these systems risk moving towards a state of decline brought about through an ignorance of their value.

IT leaders would greatly benefit from factual insights into key components such as cost, value, customer satisfaction, strategic fit, resource requirements, and rates of change, in order to make well-informed business decisions. They need to be prepared to face change in IT systems every day of their working lives, because “change” is the only consistent element in the world of IT.

Innovative smart technology simplifies the process of understanding core systems even if knowledge has been lost. It automatically builds key decision criteria, and allows IT to truly measure the value of what it owns.

Micro Focus helps organizations looking to make complete sense of their application portfolios. We deliver technology to provide a centralized business and technical insight. This allows managers, architects and development staff to acquire the vital wisdom they need to make the right IT decisions for the future.

Develop IT

The Forrester Report stated that, “most of the budget still goes toward ‘keeping the lights on’ as opposed to new business initiatives, while CompTIA’s State of the IT Skills Gap declares, “The dynamic, fast-changing nature of technology and a lack of training resources are the biggest factors contributing to the skills gap”. With such resourcing and technological challenges continuing, IT is faced with mounting pressure to develop applications as quickly as they are being demanded.
Worse still, new architectures and requirements for these systems evolve with each passing year: e.g. .NET, JVM, Mobile and Cloud.

Preserving the functionality of core systems, while embracing new architectures and making them work together, is key.

Eclipse and Visual Studio IDEs support a single application view that enables a user to work with Java, C#, COBOL and other languages, simply by sharing the same development ingredients. This resource flexibility caters for modernized mainframe applications, providing better scaling as business objectives evolve. Micro Focus provides a highly productive environment for building distributed or mainframe applications – which consist of COBOL and other languages – allowing organizations to spend less time on “lights on” work, so they can focus on delivering new business value.

Micro Focus enterprise application development technologies enable developers to build, maintain and enhance core enterprise applications. These ultramodern development tools, running under Visual Studio or Eclipse, enable collaboration and greater developer productivity, as well as enabling the use of other technologies to enhance and support core COBOL applications including Java, C#, WPF, WCF, JavaFX, HTML5, and Silverlight.

Prove IT

Not a week passes without a press article concerning a major IT system failure1. Quality is a cornerstone discipline of IT. But an equally complex challenge in the application lifecycle is the time it takes to deliver new functionality to the business, with the suitable level of quality. The amount of time it takes to run all the testing is shaped by the volume of tests and data. The battle over resources involved in the testing cycle adds to the problem, as does the inherent inefficiencies in the testing process, which in many cases remains manual, error-prone and largely unstructured.

Micro Focus provides a range of technology to assist in the overall improvement of the testing phase in the software delivery cycle.
Firstly, Micro Focus technology can alleviate capacity bottlenecks which occur in the release process, by providing a highly available, scalable, testing environment. In addition, Micro Focus technology can automate and speed up the execution of system and performance testing. Combined, these support dramatically faster delivery cycles, with the assurance that the levels of quality will be better than you could ever have imagined.

Run IT

The total cost of ownership of IT systems is significantly affected by the ongoing operational cost of running the systems in production. Organizations looking for greater flexibility in their operations often scrutinize the production platform.

Micro Focus technology supports a flexible and highly portable deployment environment. This offers organizations genuine choice in deciding on a suitable approach for their application workload deployment.

Micro Focus Enterprise Server enables deployment of enterprise workload to take place where it makes most business sense, while leaving the applications just as they are.

Its sibling product, Micro Focus COBOL Server, makes it possible to deploy enterprise class business-critical distributed applications on the widest range of platforms. Micro Focus’ highly-portable deployment technology architecture means that existing applications can be deployed onto new platforms, including .NET, JVM and the cloud, and the same application code can be deployed across multiple environments, without change.

Improve IT

Even if you make your IT system better than it was yesterday, it might not be good enough tomorrow. IT must continuously improve its systems: to stand still is to move backwards.

Whether IT is waterfall or agile, it will use some form of management and control philosophy. By supporting all key phases of the core system development lifecycle (SDLC), Micro Focus provides productive and cost efficient solutions to all application delivery challenges.

Borland2‘s lifecycle management technology enables improvements to be measured, monitored and achieved, step by step. In providing technology right across the application lifecycle management discipline, Micro Focus ensures that the journey of continuous improvement is a rewarding part of your business plan.

Conclusion

So-called legacy environments are anything but. IBM’s multi-million dollar investment in the ground-breaking zEnterprise mainframe environment and Micro Focus’ continued stewardship of COBOL as the most prevalent business language, demonstrate the on-going commitment to trusted technology.

Let’s just say it: legacy IT is a nonsense term. It is misleading, it creates the wrong impression, and it is usually thrown about by people who don’t actually know the truth about those systems. As Keith Wild, Director of IT at Blue Cross Shield in South Carolina says, “To refer to what we do as legacy in any way is both ignorant and incorrect… What is important is the value it brings to us today”.

In fact, this is clearly not about the age of the technology. Stuart Meyers, Attachmate APAC Product Marketing Manager at The Attachmate Group, commented on LinkedIn, “My iPad 1 is a legacy system that I rely on every day, and now it’s end-of-life, out-of-support and won’t accept the latest OS”3.

A recent IDC publication concludes, “…with such available approaches and a contemporary model into which core COBOL business systems can be transformed, the term “legacy” as it pertains to these systems is no longer accurate. As CIOs who run their business on COBOL have indicated to IDC on more than one occasion, ‘These applications are not legacy; these are my core business.'” 4

Micro Focus has been protecting the value of core IT systems for forty years. The products and solutions offered by Micro Focus have enabled businesses to take their legendary systems into the future, making significant improvements and pointing businesses towards necessary future innovation. The legend lives on…


1 The Royal Bank of Scotland’s mainframe blackout in 2012 was the result from an upgrade to the mainframe batch scheduling system. On New Year’s Eve 2012, Lloyds TSB customers were unable to get any money out of cashpoints or pay by debit card. Credit in customer accounts also appeared to have vanished.
2 Borland.com is a Micro Focus brand.
3 Legacy Modernization Group on Linkedin.com, discussion “Why Legacy has a bad name in IT”. Group membership is subject to approval.

4 “Modern Approaches to Application Modernization” – IDC white paper, Al Hilwa, August 2012.

Continuing Down the Sequester Slope

Written by Jim Reinertsen, VP of Federal Sales, North America

The fiscal cliff has turned into the sequestration slope, as the negotiations on January 1st have averted tax hikes and kicked the budget-cutting can further down the road. But, in just two months, Congress and the federal government will be right back where they were—wondering about the extent of sequestration. The Department of Defense provides a window into the budget situation facing many agencies in this new normal.

Even though few in Congress can agree on budget priorities, most representatives have come together on the importance of supporting our troops. But recent news out of the DoD highlights the full extent of this new budget paradigm: if sequestration takes place, the military will have to cut $45 billion from its budget this year alone. Just how much is that?

To put it in perspective, the largest, most advanced warships ever built are the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. Each carrier costs $4.5 billion to procure and the U.S. Navy operates 10 ships—so the sequestration reduction would be equal to the cost of the entire Nimitz-class carrier fleet. Finding cuts equal to that scale will be incredibly difficult.

Further complicating the matter is the fact that putting off the decision on sequestration doesn’t put off the timeframe for the budget cuts. With the government fiscal year having begun in October, this means that if sequestration takes place, the DoD has only seven months to reduce its budget by an entire carrier fleet.

There are a few things that all agencies can learn from this:

  1. Don’t expect budget issues to be resolved in one deadline or one piece of legislation. Today’s budget climate is likely to persist. Consider that agencies are still operating under a continuing resolution (CR) after Congress failed to enact appropriations bills for 2013.
  2. Make efforts to communicate the size and real-world consequences of budget reductions to your program and the agency mission. As Pentagon Press Secretary George E. Little said, “This is not about cells in an Excel spreadsheet.”
  3. Build out long-term plans for responsible budget reduction that include a menu of short-term budget-saving options that can demonstrate immediate cost savings to top agency executives and members of Congress.
  4. Technology managers should resist the temptation to cut new investments since modernization efforts can often yield real savings in the short term and significant savings in the long-term.

While the government has a responsibility to the citizen to spend conscientiously, it also has a responsibility to deliver on its mission. As federal agencies prepare for more budget battles down the road, they should work hard to find savings not only by reducing services, but improving efficiency.

If you have mainframe-based systems, we may be able to help you create significant cost savings in year one while concurrently modernizing the mainframe environment. Contact me for more information, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

2013 and the Lesson of the Pager

Written by Jim Reinertsen, VP of Federal Sales, North America

We avoided sequestration but the federal government will have to continue to focus on budget cutting throughout the year. The outlook into the future will be defined by increased austerity.

Look no further than the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 budget, which agencies across the federal government will be working to finalize in the first few months of 2013. According to a mandate from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released last year, agencies must reduce their overall budget requests for FY14 by five percent and their information technology (IT) requests by 10 percent.

The first instinct may be to reduce spending on new technology programs and divert all remaining resources to operations and maintenance (O&M) of existing systems. This is a common response to budget cuts, not just within technology systems, but across the board. This makes sense for management functions like building and utility maintenance because maintenance costs in these areas are usually steady and predictable. Unfortunately, this approach often fails as technology maintenance cost curves are not necessarily stable or predictable.

While a 10 year old building with a leaky roof can be easily repaired to last another 10 years, aging technology is sometimes beyond simple repair. An easy example is the pager. This technology was cutting-edge in the 1990s and a staple of high-stress jobs, seeing widespread use in hospital and financial settings. But no matter how many maintenance dollars you pour into your pager management program, the pagers will never be able to fulfill new agency needs, like sending and receiving emails or providing video-conference capabilities. For these functions, you’ll have to invest in a new system or fully modernize your existing communications infrastructure, rather than simply keep the old one in pristine condition.

The challenge in managing technology programs is that there is no easy way to predict when a perfectly-useful system will become obsolete or too expensive to maintain. Instead, agencies must always set aside a healthy portion of their budget to invest in modernizing or replacing legacy systems. This is even more important during times of austerity, when the O&M costs of such systems may actually be higher than the costs of modernization. So as agencies begin to prepare their strategy for the tough times ahead, let’s hope that they remember the history of the pager and the importance of technology modernization.

Micro Focus is here to help you ensure your mainframe-based legacy systems remain a modernized asset while concurrently helping you reduce your O&M spend. Please feel free to contact us for more information, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.