The Art of Legacy Modernization

By Suryaprakash V K, Vice President & Service Offering Head, Infosys

In a world of all things new, the venerable mainframe is not only alive; it’s ticking. 70 percent of enterprise data exists on mainframes even today. More than 90 of the top 100 banks use mainframes, and will continue to do so for a while.

That being said, enterprises have known that modernization is not only desirable, but also imperative. For several years now, legacy modernization has been one of the CIO’s biggest priorities. It has also been one of the biggest challenges, especially in enterprises, which don’t have a line of sight to their existing landscape or its bottlenecks.

This is why the modernization journey must begin with a clear view of how far the business processes and systems are geared to support the enterprise’s plans for the future. Since IT budgets are limited, CIOs must perform a fine balancing act between exploit and explore, that is, running operations smoothly versus preparing for the future. Over the past few years, virtually every industry has experienced some sort of digital disruption due to technology or faced an upheaval caused by innovative and new business models. The only way to cope with this disruption is to have a clear roadmap for IT landscape modernization.

So, as enterprises journey from a typical monolithic legacy landscape to an agile environment, what is the path they must take? How can they make these vital changes without interrupting operations? How do they keep the risks under control? Where do they find the money for investing in new technology?

These are some of the concerns that an approach of “Accelerate, Renew and Transform” (ART) seeks to address.

Accelerate: Having spent millions on mainframe systems, and long years working with them, the thought of replacement is unpalatable to most enterprises. Thankfully, not all systems need to be ripped out. In a number of cases, it is possible to accelerate their performance by optimizing them for greater agility and cost efficiency through selective re-hosting on commodity hardware or on the cloud, and automation. The resulting savings – which could be as much as 80 percent – can then be deployed into systems’ renewal and transformation.

Businesses, such as retailing, manufacturing and utilities, continue to pay reasonable attention to acceleration. On the other hand, banks and financial services firms are well ahead in this game, having extracted almost all the benefits that acceleration has to offer. They are now setting their sights on renewal and transformation.

Renewal: The focus of renewal is to enable new business capabilities and user experiences, and revitalizing existing applications. Here, enterprises should be looking at re-architecting IT assets, including platforms, data, code and networks, with the goal of making them more modular, flexible and nimble. Componentization and API are an important part of renewal because they can substantially improve flexibility and agility. For instance, enterprises can build an API layer to enable users to access data from new channels that emerge without having to make large-scale changes to existing systems. Or they can create a Devops environment for faster development and deployment of functionality.

Transformation: Transformation is a bolder step than acceleration and renewal. Here, the enterprise needs to plunge into new technologies and methodologies, such as cloud, mobile and open source, to name a few. It might have to junk existing systems, and be unafraid to redraw old constructs. This might call for rewriting or redeploying applications, code, or data on modern architecture, or replacing an existing application with a packaged or platform solution. The benefits are more than commensurate, usually resulting in an order of magnitude improvement in ease of maintenance and extensibility, and zero loss of functionality.

Typically, organizations choose to transform end-user functionalities and their related front-ending systems first, because of the direct and visible impact on business metrics.

This – determining what and how much to accelerate, renew and transform – is one of the most difficult decisions facing CIOs today. A mention of budget constraints and landscape opacity was made earlier in this article. Enterprises can overcome these challenges with a tool-based approach, one that is capable of covering 100 percent of the landscape and performing analysis that is both top-down and bottom up. A number of forward looking CIOs have used this framework to define an ART roadmap. But there are other execution challenges that are as important to manage – convincing the management to embark on this journey, managing the mindset change, reskilling the IT workforce and pacing execution based on the potential disruption in their particular industry.

However, none of these challenges are deterring enterprises from forging ahead with legacy modernization. Actually, they have no choice, with IT poised at an inflection point. There are a number of proven tools and methodologies that can help define a comprehensive plan. Every CIO realizes that software will drive the organization of the future and having a technology landscape that can adapt quickly to next-generation business models, is critical to survival. However, there is no single approach that fits all; every enterprise must chart its own path of legacy modernization based on the circumstances of its industry and organization.


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