In or Out: let’s get the mainframe legacy over with now

In many mainframe shops – organizations using applications that run on the mainframe – senior management struggle with their isolated, expensive, complicated mainframe environment. 

  • The mainframe investment is a significant part of your IT budget, needing to board-level decision making.
  • It is unclear if the value of your mainframe investment is in line with its value.
  • Mainframe applications are often core applications, deeply rooted in organizational processes.
  • Business innovation capacity is limited by legacy applications and technology.
  • Too much is spent on maintenance and continuity, too little on innovation.

At the same time, the misalignment increases.

The organization moves to a cloud model for their IT – what is the mainframe position in that respect?

The mismatch between Enterprise Architecture and mainframe landscape is increasing.

Organizational and technical debt is building up in the mainframe environment, maintenance and modernization are postponed and staff is aging.

A decision must decide whether to throw out the mainframe legacy or revitalize the environment, but they have far from complete information to make a good judgment.

Divestment options

Let’s look at the divestment options you have when you are stuck in this situation.

Rehost the platform, meaning, move the infrastructure to another platform or to a vendor. 

This solves a small part of the problem, namely the infrastructure management part. Everything else remains the same. 

Retire all applications on the mainframe platform. Probably the cleanest solution in the divestment strategy. However, this option is only viable if replacing applications is available and speedy migration to these applications is possible.

Replace through repurchase, meaning replace your custom solution with another off-the-shelf solution, whether on-premise or in a SaaS model. This is only an option if, from a business perspective, you can live with the standard functionality of the package solution. 

Replace through refactoring is an option for application where special functionality support distinguishing business features that can not be supported in off-the-shelf applications. Significant development and migration efforts may be needed for this approach.

A total solution will likely be a combination of these options, depending on application characteristics and business needs.

The investment option

The Investment option is a stepwise improvement process, in multiple areas, depending on the state of the mainframe applications and platform. Areas include application portfolio readjustments, architecture alignments, application and infrastructure technology updates, and processes and tools modernization.

Depending on the state of the environment, investments may be significant. Some organization have neglected their mainframe environment for a decade or longer, and have a massive backlog to address. In some cases the backlog is so big, that divestment is the only realistic option. (As an example, one organization needed to support multiple languages, including Chinese and Russian, in their business applications. After 10 years of maintenance neglect of the middleware, the only option they had was to abandon their strategic application platform. This brings excessive costs, but more important for the organization’s competitiveness, technical debt hits at the most inconvenient moments.)

To find the best option for your organisation you should consider at least the following aspects:

  • Cost of value.
  • Alignment of business goals, enterprise architecture, and mainframe landscape.
  • Position of the mainframe landscape in your application portfolio.
  • Mainframe application portfolio lifecycle status and functional and strategic fit.
  • Technical vitality of your mainframe environment.
  • The operational effectiveness of DevOps and infra teams.
  • Cloud strategy and mainframe alignment.

A thorough analysis of these aspects funnels into a comprehensive improvement plan for business alignment, architectural adjustments, and operational fit. Execution of this plan must be not just agreed, upon but actively controlled by senior business and IT management. A steering body is needed to address challenges quickly. Senior business and IT management and controlling business and enterprise architects should be represented in the steering body to make sure agreed goals remain on target.

Thus, you reseize control over your mainframe again.

On efficiency (what’s a nanosecond, what’s a microsecond)

  • Post category:IT architecture
  • Reading time:2 mins read

I heard Mark Andreessen predict that programmers need to get very efficient on programming again (At about 17:30) in this very interesting interview with Kevin Kelly.

If we do not get more efficient in programming, things might get stuck.

Another insteresting perepctive was already provided by Grace Hopper, the lady that invested COBOL, amongst other things.

See this video: How long is a nanosecond 

This all reminds me of a small test we did recently to check resource consumption of programming languages, by writing just a very small Hello World program. On ein COBOL, one in Java and one in Groovy.

The following summarizes how many CPU seconds these programs needed to run:

COBOL 0,01 msec (basically it was unmeasurable).

Java 1 second.

Groovy: 3 seconds.

And then we are only looking at very inefficient programming languages. Much more could be gained when looking at application architectures. Microservices architectures, especially when applied radically, are incredibly inefficient compared to traditional tightly coupled applications in C, COBOL or even Java.

Of course I do not want to advertise stovepipe applications, history has proven the maintenance issues to be inhibitive, but a more balanced architecture with more eye for efficiency seems inevitable.

AWS IaaS first glance: my goodness how cumbersome

  • Post category:Cloud
  • Reading time:2 mins read

I am currently getting myself up to speed with AWS through an AWS Certified Solution Architect – Associate training.

As an architect with quite a bit of background in infrastructures, I was surprised by the level of minute infrastructure details that are still needed for the design of a simple virtualized environment. Even more so by and the amount of subsequent manual configuration to setup an environment. The level is no less than what is needed for a physical environment. My ignorance for sure, but I had expected the IaaS provider to hide much more detail from the user. What you see however is that server and network details up to things like CIDR blocks is still needed. 

I guess there is an opportunity to create more high level infrastructure boilerplates. Around 2000 I was involved in many projects needing similar detailed design for the e-business infrastructures clients needed at that time. After having done that a few times we find that these infrastructure are in fact very similar. For a service like AWS I can similarly envision a boilerplate that needs only that entering of a limited number of functional and non-functional requirements for an setup like a web application infrastructure with a user registry, a scaleable set of application servers and highly available  relational database management system.

(I am assuming IBM, Google, Microsoft and others are not different in this respect, but admittedly I have not checked all of them)

To be fair, AWS does have include a quite extensive documentation system available with reference architectures, technical guides and whitepapers. Here you can find blueprints for solutions, and guidance how to set up such solutions in AWS. Addin assets, tools, automations to support users in setting up such best practice configurations would probably be a great addition to AWS’ Architecture Center and/or Marketplace.

What’s your experience?

Self-centered IT architecture and technology as a necessary evil

  • Post category:IT architecture
  • Reading time:1 mins read

Everyone thinks their own area of technical expertise is the most important.

The Data Architect thinks software solutions must be data-driven.

The integration architect thinks everything must be event-driven, or every interface must be a REST API.

The service management guys think that the CMDB is the center of the universe.

The cloud architect (if such a thing exists) thinks everything must be deployed in the cloud because the cloud is heaven.

We all forget that successful architectures are based on best practices. Quite universal best practices. Don’t tie everything tightly together (layering, loose coupling), do not make things complex (simplicity), etcetera. Technologies are not a goal. They are just a means. At best. Technologies are a necessary evil. You want as little as possible of it.