The software controlling central business processes is like a central nervous system, and in our consulting projects around IT strategy, modernizing aging applications is our client’s focus.

The modernization and replacement of self-developed core applications are increasingly becoming a central challenge for many companies, especially on mainframes. Selecting the most suitable modernization approach is a strategic decision with far-reaching consequences for the business and IT.

Mainframe modernization projects are not only cost-intensive, highly complex, and risky but, in many cases, also represent change projects for the IT organization itself. Nevertheless, such projects are inevitable due to the digital transformation and modernization of business processes in companies. Since mainframes are technically the “royal league” of the most powerful servers, the bar is set high for comparable scalability, performance, security, and availability.

In our current whitepaper, we provide an overview of the possibilities of modernization for legacy applications from a strategic perspective and structure the solutions offered on the market.

Business requirements

The realities and challenges of mainframes and legacy applications are countered by business demands for digitalization, greater efficiency, and improved time-to-market.

Two paradigm shifts are on the horizon: “buy” instead of “program yourself” and “cloud” instead of “on-premise.”

In our consulting projects in IT strategy, we have seen a clear will by decision-makers to invest more in external software, cloud-based solutions, and SaaS models. As a result of these two paradigm shifts, core questions - for example, about costs, sourcing, skills and staff, and the core competencies of IT - will be answered in new and different ways in the future.

Modernization approaches

So the question arises: What modernization options are there for mainframes?

Based on many discussions with solution providers, service providers, and customers, as well as the study of various analyses, white papers, and red papers, we have structured the solutions offered on the market similar to the package insert of a medicine. On the insert, we find:

  • a description of the effects on typical “pain points.”
  • when an application is necessary – we work this out.
  • a description of the effort, costs, duration, risks, and prospects of success.
  • evaluations of whether the measures are short to medium-term or should be classified as strategic initiatives.

Our goal is to provide an understanding of what works well when, what effects, and “side effects” are associated with the approaches in order to accelerate the decision-making process in selecting the “Legacy Modernization” solution that is best for you.

Following Gartner’s “Five R’s of Mainframe Modernization,” we have formulated the following five solution approaches that bring different (predominantly positive) effects:

1. Replace

This approach is about optimizing the outdated mainframes or, in the best case, replacing them with a standard software/industry solution.

2. Rebuild

In rare cases, it makes sense to rebuild a legacy application, i.e., to reprogram it. However, the rule remains: “Buy instead of programming yourself.”

3. Offloading (re-platform or rehost)

During the “offloading” or “lift & shift” migration of a legacy application to, e.g., Linux or Windows, the source code is migrated to the target platform and compiled there, followed by further necessary steps until the programs run. For an “offloading” to work, some requirements must be met.

4. Code-Conversion (re-architect)

In this case, the source code is translated into another programming language by a converter or cross-compiler and ported to x86. Here there are different variants. The art is to maintain the maintainability of the converted source code.

5. Retire

This option refers to the decommissioning of existing applications. Understanding and planning for all dependencies, especially interfaces, is essential in advance.

Are you interested in detailed information on the above five options? Read more in our whitepaper.

Modernization of individual components and supporting measures

In addition to these “major” solutions, mixed or combined approaches and many smaller, targeted approaches or supporting measures are listed and described in detail in the publication. The corresponding measures can be implemented individually or in combination and planned in addition to the aforementioned comprehensive solution approaches.

What’s next?

With the contents of our publication, we would like to create transparency. The next steps are probably obvious: working out the specific pain points in your own company, identifying suitable solution approaches from providers on the market to turn ideas into concrete plans, developing the ideas into a modernization strategy that suits you, selecting appropriate providers for implementation, planning the modernization and driving it forward.

We have some general recommendations for your “Legacy Modernization.” Contact us – we will be happy to send you the whitepaper.

We are constantly learning and welcome your comments, experiences, and recommendations on this and related topics and invite you to send them to our mailbox: mainframemodernization@bearingpoint.com.

We would be delighted to answer any questions you may have!

Would you like more information?

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