Does DevOps Help or Hinder Mainframe Modernization?


It might surprise you that Fortune 200 organizations maintain a huge number of legacy systems. As a result, mainframe modernization is making a resurgence as companies look to become fully digital businesses. It’s imperative that organizations transform clunky, legacy systems so they become more compatible with the cloud-native apps and DevOps processes that are now running the business.

The initial phase of any pragmatic modernization strategy is to conduct an analysis of the application portfolio. This process helps correlate operational information, such as the criticality of a given application, with business impact, such as the software’s connection to revenue generation, end-user experience, compliance and other factors.

Application portfolio analysis helps organizations categorize applications into 4 main buckets:

  1. Retire: when the application doesn't provide any business benefit and has poor technical capabilities.
  2. Re-host: when the application has business value but is very expensive to maintain in the existing IT environment.
  3. Renew: when the application has high business value and better technical features but should be enhanced to improve efficiency.
  4. Re-write: when the application can generate greater business value but is restrained by legacy systems in its ability to adapt to growing needs.

The Danger of DevOps in Modernization Projects

Done right and done broadly, mainframe modernization dramatically reduces IT costs while improving system performance and software quality. Applying DevOps principles to transformation initiatives undoubtedly accelerates the frequency of release, but it comes at a risk.

In this scenario, existing software complexity does not disappear with DevOps, but rather becomes compounded, impacting the efficiency and stability of the system in question. This may cause tangential functionality and features to fail, even though the targeted components of the mainframe application are being improved.

To accelerate and secure the frequency of release, it is key to split or rationalize the different functionalities of the system. The main idea is to slowly replace functionality with a module or service while minimizing changes to the system itself to support this transition. This will reduce the cost of maintaining the system and minimize the impact of the modernization effort.

At CAST, we believe legacy modernization projects are the most successful when a visual approach is applied. As examined in this week’s webinar, creating a visualization based on a cross-platform understanding of application components helps to create a rules-based architecture, guiding the modernization process from start to finish.

An evaluation application health, such as its stability, efficiency and complexity, will reveal its technical maturity level. Combined with a visualization of application architecture, development teams can quickly and easily investigate the as-is architecture and identify the next steps required for a successful modernization.

At this point, teams should be able to split some of the core functionality from the legacy mainframe application, migrating it to the new architectural framework. The process of data partitioning should be well defined in a way the supports functionality, allowing teams to re-use existing services and re-organize the data as needed to adapt to new or changing business requirements.

To learn more about improving IT modernization projects with a visual representation of cross-platform application components for mainframe systems, you can always view our recorded webinar or discover how CAST is working with CA Technologies to make mainframe modernization more efficient with Agile Analytics.

Philippe Guerin
Philippe Guerin Software Analytics & Risk Prevention specialist. Domain Expert in ADM Sizing and Productivity Measurement
A well-rounded technologist with over 15 years of leadership experience in ADM Productivity Measurement, Product Development/Management, Program Management, Solution Architecture, Sales, and Services, and more than 5 years of leading teams.
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