Mainframe-to-Cloud Database Migration

At Astadia, we handle a wide range of legacy modernization projects, including some of the largest and most complex mainframe-to-cloud migrations for government agencies and private organizations. Without exception, these migrations involve mission-critical systems, sometimes with hundreds of thousands of users. On occasion, though, clients engage us to execute on more narrowly defined (but just as mission-critical) projects. Very often, these are limited scope projects that fit into a larger multi-year vision for legacy modernization.

One of our recent efforts involved a state agency whose mission is focused on employment security and economic development. Prior to engaging Astadia, this organization had successfully migrated their mainframe application code to Java running on Windows. To mitigate risk, they opted for a phased approach in which they would initially continue running their DB2databases on their legacy mainframe system, later migrating them to the cloud on AWS.

With the databases running on an IBM z/OS mainframe, the agency’s systems were stable and secure, but performance was slower than desired, largely due to the bottleneck created by read-write calls to the mainframe. As a result of this operating model, the agency continued to incur operating costs and administrative overhead.

After a successful effort to refactor their mainframe code to Java on Windows, the next phase in the agency’s vision was to move those DB2databases off of the IBM z/OS mainframe and migrate them to DB2 running on Windows and AWS. They aimed to lower their operating costs and take advantage of AWS cloud native services, which would enable them to further reduce the overhead associated with the administration of on-premise systems.

That strategy aligned with the state’s broader vision for IT systems across all of its agencies. By migrating to AWS, this state agency could save taxpayers money while also laying a foundation upon which they could build innovative services for the state’s residents.

Astadia’s Role

That’s where Astadia entered the picture. Leaders at the agency were highly risk-averse; they understood the very serious implications of failures and setbacks, so they wanted to engage a world-class service provider with a proven track record in mainframe modernization.

Astadia was tasked with migrating the agency’s DB2 databases to DB2 LUW (Linux/UNIX/Windows), running on both their on-premise data center and AWS. As an extraordinary precaution, this client wanted to run the migrated databases on-premise initially, with a subsequent migration to cloud to follow as soon as possible. Stability and reliability were top priorities, so leaders at the state agency chose to implement their DB2 migration in accordance with IBM’s HADR (high-availability disaster recovery) specification.

Astadia began with a thorough assessment process, which culminated in a phased plan for moving the DB2 databases to the client’s on-premise data center and AWS. The end state would have seven databases across those two environments, including four HADR clusters. In addition, the agency operated applications that stored data in Teradata and MS Access databases, so the interfaces to those systems needed to be managed as well. As with all of Astadia’s projects, the plan laid out a phased approach that incorporated development, testing, and training for an end-to-end migration process in collaboration with the state agency’s leadership, including the information technology team. To further mitigate risk, the client opted for a phase-one proof-of-concept that would serve as a test case for the full migration of theDB2 databases to Windows and AWS.

Overcoming COVID-19 Challenges

Shortly after project execution began, the COVID-19 crisis began to unfold around the world. For state agencies tasked with managing unemployment benefits, that created extraordinary pressures as they struggled to implement changes brought about by the CARES Act, as well as to manage are cord-setting number of new claims. That level of disruption was unprecedented. State governments throughout the United States were under extraordinary pressures; this particular state agency was no exception.

Nevertheless, this project remained on track. Astadia and the state agency were able to deliver their phase-one results on time and within budget in late 2020. More recently, phase two was completed, also on time and within budget. This brings the production DB2 database on-premise for the first time, enabling the agency to end its reliance on the legacy IBM mainframe.

Looking to the Future

The next step will be to continue the migration from on-premise Windows to AWS, where the client can begin to take advantage of native cloud services and reduce the administrative burdens associated with managing their current on-premise systems. The long-term outcome will be robust capabilities, with significantly lower operating costs and management. That, in turn, will free up resources to drive additional innovation at the state agency, resulting in better services and lower costs to the state’s residents.

In addition, the agency’s IT systems will align with the state’s broader strategy for moving IT systems to the cloud, leveraging the native cloud services available on AWS and further reducing the cost burdens associated with legacy mainframe systems.

Astadia brings years of legacy modernization experience to the table, with world-class project management skills and proven methodologies for mainframe-to-cloud migration efforts. The leaders at this state agency placed an extraordinary emphasis on risk mitigation, though; so Astadia worked with them to plan for even higher levels of assurance with a phased approach to the project and a design that incorporated additional redundancies.

This project was faced with significant headwinds, as the state agency encountered an unprecedented surge in demand for its services while scrambling to accommodate all of the legislative and regulatory changes made in response to the pandemic. Nevertheless, the combined project team came through and delivered on schedule.

In partnership with Astadia and AWS, this state agency is on track to modernize its IT environment, reduce costs, and pave the way for innovation in the years to come.

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