The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest institutions of higher education in the United States, with an annual budget of more than $4.5 billion. Within a state wide network of 11 universities and seven state agencies, the A&M System educates more than 148,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year.

The A&M System relies heavily on information technology to carry out its mission of teaching, research and public service. The system’s Financial Accounting Management Information System (FAMIS) has served as a backbone for critical business processes for decades, but in recent years technology leaders at the university have grappled with escalating costs, a shortage of mainframe talent and the inherent technical limitations of their legacy mainframe platform.

With Astadia’s help, the A&M System successfully preserved its investments in FAMIS while reducing operating costs by an estimated $1.5 million annually, easing its hiring constraints, improving security, and increasing organizational agility.

The Challenge

Technology leaders at the A&M System were seeking to adapt and optimize the use of technology resources, improve their security posture, enhance system functionality and reduce risk. The system’s legacy platforms were inhibiting agility and innovation. Leaders wanted to move FAMIS to a modern platform where it could be more easily integrated with external systems. They had grown increasingly concerned about cybersecurity, fearing that their aging system could put them at risk. They also wanted to facilitate innovation and agile development.

Built on legacy Natural & Adabas technology, FAMIS is the last of the A&M system’s applications to be modernized. Mainframe operating costs had steadily increased in recent years, and it was also becoming more and more difficult to hire and retain mainframe experts familiar with Natural and Adabas.

The A&M system had already replaced several other mainframe applications with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software. Those projects turned out to be more challenging than anticipated, so when FAMIS was due to undergo modernization, technology leaders at Texas A&M University System chose instead to preserve their existing investment by migrating FAMIS to Microsoft Windows and SQL Server.

The Solution

Technology leaders at Texas A&M University System began with a mainframe assessment. They engaged Astadia to perform a comprehensive analysis of the system’s existing platform, outline options for modernization and provide insights that could guide them in determining the best possible plan for their organization.  

The A&M System chose Astadia because of its leadership position in the mainframe modernization space, and because system leadership wanted to work with a company that could shepherd them through the entire process regardless of which modernization approach they chose. Unlike other vendors, Astadia offered a range of modernization options that would allow the A&M System to select a path that best suited its unique requirements.

Astadia used its proprietary migration toolset to transform the FAMIS codebase from Natural to C#, and the organization’s JCL code was refactored to PowerShell. The FAMIS database was converted from Adabas to Microsoft SQL Server. With the transition from a hierarchical database to a relational one, the team also took the opportunity to make adjustments to the schema to improve data access and optimize performance.

Initially, Astadia developed a proof-of-concept (POC) system to establish the viability of the planned migration and to demonstrate the accuracy and reliability of fully automated refactoring, database conversion and testing. The POC helped the A&M system team to establish buy-in from stakeholders and to move forward with confidence.

The Results

The A&M System now runs FAMIS on a fully modern platform that runs C# code on Microsoft Windows and SQL Server. In the process, they have reduced costs, increased agility and eliminated the pressing problem of hiring and retaining skilled mainframe talent. Project leaders at the University System estimate that the project will lead to annual savings of $1.5 million.

Because the application is functionally equivalent to the old mainframe version, users have transitioned to the modernized FAMIS without the need for extensive retraining.

“The financial systems of The Texas A&M University System are now run entirely on a modern technology stack. This truly marks the end of an era.” said Deputy Chief Information Officer Mark Schulz, who led the in-house effort.

According to Schultz, modernizing FAMIS was one of the system’s biggest challenges due to the sheer size and scope of the project. Now that they are running everything on a modern Windows platform, they have a much higher capacity for innovation than in the past.

Schultz had high praise for Astadia as well: “Astadia was undoubtedly the right choice,” he said. “They’re the leader in the space for very good reason, and if we had to do it all over again, there’s no question we would want to work with Astadia.”

Related resources

Webinar: Evolving Universities

White paper: Natural to C# Transformation

Solution: Adabas & Natural Migrations

About the client

ORGANIZATION: The Texas A&M University System is the oldest public institution of higher learning in the state, serving more than 152,000 students in Texas and throughout the world.

INDUSTRY: Education

USE CASES: Mainframe Modernization, Refactoring, Mainframe to Windows

RESULTS: Reduced annual system operating costs and delivered a functionally equivalent system for uninterrupted financial accounting operations.

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