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Top 5 challenges of mainframe modernization projects

Technical obsolescence looms ever larger as the rise of AI, cloud computing, and other digital transformation technologies compel mainframe shops to modernize.

Amdocs

22 Nov 2023

Top 5 challenges of mainframe modernization projects

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For decades, mainframes have served as a reliable backbone for mission-critical enterprise applications. Unfortunately, these systems are fast becoming liabilities. Skyrocketing operating costs and a shrinking pool of mainframe talent are leading more and more organizations to make the move to the cloud. 

Technical obsolescence looms ever larger as the rise of AI, cloud computing, and other digital transformation technologies compel mainframe shops to modernize.

Mainframe modernization projects can be daunting, though. Perceptions about high costs, project risk, and internal resource constraints often prevent organizations from moving forward with much-needed change. Fortunately, advances in tools and methodologies are changing the game, making mainframe modernization faster, easier, and less expensive than ever before.

Here are the top five challenges that businesses often encounter when undertaking mainframe modernization projects.

#1 Understanding legacy system architecture and code

One of the most daunting tasks in mainframe modernization is deciphering the existing legacy system architecture and code. Often, these mainframes have been in operation for decades, accruing a large volume of code that might not be adequately documented. In many cases, the original developers of these systems have long since left the company or even retired. This lack of understanding and documentation can significantly slowdown the  modernization process, as teams must first unravel the intricacies of the old system before they can begin to update it.

Astadia, an Amdocs company, addresses these challenges with our FastTrack Mainframe Assessment process. For most organizations, this serves as acritical first step toward modernization. We offer a unique approach to the assessment process, based on our 25-year history of migrating mainframe workloads to distributed and cloud platforms. The FastTrack Mainframe Assessment provides a comprehensive understanding of your current environment and identifies the best in-industry solution for your unique mainframe-to-cloud journey.

#2 The mainframe skills gap

Around 60% of mainframe technology specialists are over the age of 50. Many are approaching retirement, and virtually no new computer science grads are stepping in to replace them. While it’s easy to find programmers with experience in Java, C#, or other modern OO languages, very few understand the intricacies of COBOL copybooks, hierarchical databases, and procedural code.

Bridging the skills gap requires significant time and resources to train existing staff, recruit new talent, or both. For organizations relying on in-house resources to staff a modernization project, that can mean substantial delays. Even worse, it can mean losing valuable knowledge about the company and its systems when existing workers choose to go elsewhere. In a highly competitive environment, it’s often difficult to maintain continuity. That can contribute to even further delays for a modernization project, as new employees must come up to speed on the organization and its systems.

Astadia offers our clients access to a rich pool of talented mainframe professionals. Whether you’re in the midst of an ongoing project or simply want to augment your staff with outside expertise, Astadia, an Amdocs company, can help you work more efficiently and effectively. Through our  managed services  and  DevOps consulting  practices, we help our clients use their existing resources to maximum effect. During your mainframe modernization project, our team is there for you every step of the way.

#3 Data migration

Databases have evolved significantly over the years. The data residing in legacy systems is often incompatible with modern relational formats. Hierarchical databases and COBOL copybooks are foreign to today’s standards-based world of relational databases, data lakes, and other means of storing information.

When we consider the complexity of read-write operations embedded within huge volumes of application code, the prospect of modernizing a mainframe database may appear overwhelming. Ensuring that data is  correctly and securely transferred is a complex process, and if not done properly, can lead to significant data loss or corruption.

We simplify data migration with our fully automated approach to mainframe-to-cloud migration. The FastTrackFactory from Astadia, an Amdocs company, dramatically speeds the modernization process and reduces project risk substantially. It offers a holistic approach to database migration, code conversion, and testing/validation. By integrating database migration with refactoring, the FastTrack Factory allows you to redesign and optimize your database schema without introducing risk and manual recoding into the process.

#4 Business continuity and risk

The number one reason cited for putting off mainframe modernization is risk. The “big bang” projects of the past were necessarily very disruptive, with high failure rates. Given the tremendous complexity of most modernization projects and the traditional requirement for intensive manual effort, it’s no surprise that the conventional approaches to mainframe migration have been high-risk propositions.

Fortunately, that’s no longer the case. At Astadia, we’re tremendously proud of our track record. We have modernized some of the largest, most complex systems in the world, with a success rate of 100% over the past decade.

The Astadia FastTrack Factory makes it possible to design, re-factor, and test/validate your migrated system exhaustively, with virtually no incremental cost or effort. Our methodology allows project leaders to develop extraordinarily high levels of confidence, then to perform a clean cut over with virtually no downtime.

#5 Budget uncertainty

Finally, mainframe modernization projects can be expensive, and due to their complexity, it's not uncommon for unexpected costs to arise. With the right partner, however, you can achieve your goals without such unpleasant surprises, ultimately delivering substantial cost savings for your organization.

Astadia, an Amdocs company, has nearly three decades of experience in mainframe modernization, so we understand the kinds of challenges that may arise over the course of a project. Our fully automated FastTrack approach enables us to migrate applications to modern OO languages at a fraction of what other companies can achieve.

Our customers have achieved post-migration cost savings of more than 90%, freeing themselves from escalating operating costs while also addressing the challenges of finding and retaining qualified mainframe experts.

Astadia can help your organization move beyond these challenges to modernize your systems with confidence, on time and within budget. Contact our team today to discuss your project.

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