Not Getting Any Younger: The High Cost of Ignoring Your Aging Mainframe
by Kelly McClure, Vice President of Global Marketing
Mainframes have been hosting and running the software applications of the world’s larger organizations and enterprises for upwards of four decades. Despite the dire warnings that these “behemoth dinosaurs” were destined for extinction in the 21st century, most enterprise-level systems in operation today still reside in mainframes. For example, in financial services, insurance, and banking as many as 60% of all core processes are running on mainframes. Also, COBOL applications are still handling the vast majority of computer transactions. COBOL is the primary language of mainframes.
Since crashing mainframes haven’t brought down any of the world’s largest enterprises yet, why is there all this talk of migrating, rehosting, rewriting, and re-platforming? Sure, analysts are saying that CIOs need to speed up legacy modernization to remain competitive and respond quickly to market threats and opportunities, but they have been saying that since the early 2000s. After all, many of these modernization initiatives require significant capital outlay, so why spend money to fix something that does not appear to be broken? This blog offers several answers to that question.
Inaction is tempting. It requires no effort, and if an organization is never going to need new functionality again, then it could be the option. But, how many organizations can afford to make that kind of decision? The answer to that question is “zero,” if the plan is to stay in business. It’s too risky. You have to deliver modern features and functions or wither away.
Inaction isolates valuable applications and data in expensive and proprietary silos. These older systems become more of a liability the longer they remain in operation. Your competitors are most likely modernizing their mainframes to take advantage of new technology, and eventually they’re going to leave you and the creaky mainframe in the dust. Additionally, since valuable data is essentially hidden away in those silos, if you have invested in any of the latest sophisticated big data analytics solutions, you are not likely to get accurate results. In other words, you risk not getting a worthwhile return on that investment.
But the risk that is probably the most damaging is losing users and customers. They want mobile access and support along with the software and applications they have been using for years. Older systems are typically not that friendly to new user interfaces or mobile frameworks that need more flexible formatting. So, users will go elsewhere. If the users are customers, they will look for a business that delivers what they want. If they are employees, they might take matters into their own hands, which can lead to a “shadow IT” problem and even more risk.
A big byproduct of not modernizing the mainframe is all the cost it incurs. Maintaining and updating a mainframe is expensive. Numerous industry analysts agree that large organizations spend millions of dollars each year to maintain and invest in new mainframe technology. Here is how all that can break down.
Infrastructure and licensing for a mainframe come at a high price, and expenses rise each year as technology changes and systems get older. Compatible hardware becomes hard to find, support contracts lapse or raise rates, and organizations pay for server space that is only used when there is a need to scale, which is usually just a few times a year. There are also the hidden costs that arise when a vendor sunsets software, frameworks, and applications that the mainframe and company rely on. Then the decision is whether to risk using a tool that is not supported or trying to find a replacement with little planning.
Some businesses have frozen their software maintenance levels to the point of expired support, and they are out of compliance – another risk to the business. Third party software vendors often take advantage of this situation by piling on increased maintenance fees.
Mainframes have been through decades of modifications, fixes, and workarounds. They are therefore complex with a confusing code base. As a result, when it is time to change or upgrade, high-priced, on-demand developers often make haphazard changes that only leave the system more incomprehensible. The result could lead to a higher probability of breaches and failures; if the mainframe fails, most businesses do not have the components to bring it back online quickly. Your bottom line will take a significant hit while the system is down, and it is possible that customers will leave and not return.
As applications age and the change management rigor degrades documentation isn’t always updated and in many cases source code is lost.
Maintaining the Status Quo Should Be a No Go
Put simply, maintaining older mainframes ties up capital that could be used on innovation and differentiation. Their applications were written years ago, most likely by a company that has gone out of business or has been acquired. Not only do you pay for maintenance and upgrades, but also installation, cooling, and power. Plus, the current infrastructure is not likely to meet the demands of mobile or data analytics applications. Doing nothing comes at a high price.
The Lower Cost of Doing Something
You can preserve your mainframe’s legacy without breaking the bank. Rehosting is an option whereby existing mainframe applications move unchanged to a modern open environment. Once on this modern platform, applications interact with API’s, new user interfaces and other modern technology such as containers. Applications may be written in COBOL, PL1, Assembler or other languages, and mainframes may be from IBM, Fujitsu, and other vendors. When done properly, rehosting preserves your mainframe investment, and can reduce risk and costs over the long term. Learn more about the benefits of rehosting in this guide.
About Kelly McClure
Kelly McClure is the Vice President of Global Marketing for TmaxSoft. Her 20-year marketing career spans both Fortune 1000 companies and fast growth technology startups. Kelly is responsible for leading TmaxSoft’s marketing strategy. She is experienced in aligning marketing and sales, building relevant content and messaging and developing integrated lead generation campaigns. Before joining TmaxSoft, Kelly served as the Vice President of Marketing for 10th Magnitude and held senior marketing roles with DataStax, BMC Software and Micro Focus. Kelly has a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and an MBA from Loyola University Chicago.