In this episode, Walter speaks with Mario Mees, Managing Director Modernization Solutions at Astadia. They talk about Mario’s recent book: “Your Mainframe is Holding You Hostage: A 101 Guide For Decision Makers,” and how it can help IT leaders plan their mainframe to cloud journey.
Walter Sweat - Astadia CTO: Hello, everyone. My name isWalter Sweat. I'm the CTOhere at Astadia, and Iwould like to welcome you today to the latest edition of our Walter’s World Podcast Series.
Walter Sweat - Astadia CTO: Today I'm delighted to have one of mycompatriots, Mario Mees,who is the Managing Director for Modernization Solutions here at Astadia join us. Mario hasrecently authored a new booklet that I have found to be just completelyfascinating, and I thought that it might be very interesting for you, theaudience, to be able tohear a little bit about this book and Mario's experience and background. So,Mario, welcome very much.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: Thank you, Walter. Thank you very much for the introduction.
Walter Sweat - Astadia CTO: Now, Mario, you are renowned in this industry, but for thosemembers of our audience, who perhaps haven't had the chance to meet you yet, could you give us a little summary of your career?
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: Uh, yes, Glad to. SoI joined about ten years ago Anubex,which then merged or was acquired by Astadia more than a year ago, and before that I worked with other American companies,the last one in Microsoft. But because Anubex was in fact a small company, I had the opportunity to do alot of things like I spent a lot of time on kind of codefining I would say, the product strategy, positioning thebranding, also the pricing of the products. But I also have the opportunity to do a lotof sales engagement, thepart of management, and I was even involved in a lot of projects, not as aproject manager or indeploying, but more on overseeingthe quality, let's say, and thedelivery. So, in a short, in inshort, I talked about last ten years with countless clients and prospects.
Walter Sweat - Astadia CTO: I know that I have really enjoyed getting towork with you and see the way you interact with organizations, understandingtheir challenges and their problems and helping them to find solutions. So, it has been a pleasuregetting to work with, sir.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: Yeah, likewise, Walter. Absolutely.
Walter Sweat - Astadia CTO: Thanks. So I mentioned thatyou've written a book. Ah, could you tell us kind of what prompted you to writethis book? Your mainframe is holding your hostage.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: Yes, so in in talking with those CIOs, enterprise architects over all these years, I realized thatyou know when these people are considering alternatives, let's say, for themainframe, it's not their daily business, right?They have a lot of experience and doing a lot of very complicated things, youknow, running the operations of the mainframe or developing projects. But migrating a mainframe is something that they havetypically never done before, and most probably will not do anymore either once it's done. They don't have the expertise thatthey have in all the other aspects of their daily business to rely on, so thatprompted me that maybe it's a good thing to kind of write what it is about. Butwhat I also realized after a while is that these people they do tend to rely oncertain things. They know about risk management, planning, and all that good stuffthat is not necessary corrector applies in mainframe migration because at the end of the day a migration project is somethingcompletely different, and what intuitively might be a very good and very wisething to do it could havequite the opposite effect in amainframe migrationproject.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: So that's also what I tried to do, addressing all thesemisconceptions. Last but notleast, while there are quite a few taxonomies out there for large vendors, none of them went a step further andtried to introduce also kind of an evaluation framework based on that taxonomy. So that's why I, you know, feltcompelled to write this book.
Walter Sweat - Astadia CTO: Well, I know I was extremelyimpressed when I read it, seeinghow you had helped to delineate, not just being knowledgeable about themainframe, which all of our customers and companies are but to integrate thatmigration effort, because they are indeed different things, and havingsomething that kind of highlights where it's important to merge thosecapabilities together. I think you did an exceptional job within the book.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: Thank you so much.
Walter Sweat - Astadia CTO: Okay, concerning the topic of the book. What are some ofthe factors that you can think of, Mario, that contribute to a mainframe being able to do that to an organization.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: Well, let me also say we also appreciate, of course, what themainframe does has done, and still will do for many, many years, for the customersand the fantastic machine itis. But there are some “buts”. I think it's because, you know, youcan categorize these buts and in many ways. But I think you can bring it back basically to three things that are problematic or are becoming more and more problematic. First ofall, there is the cost.There is this perception that a mainframe is expensive, and that perception is unfortunately also often proven by data,so to speak. So a mainframeis expensive, and it turns outthat for many, many clients a non-mainframe-based alternative is simply cheaperto run and cheaper to maintain.
And so that is definitely an important argument. We should look at the second: the skills, and that has come up for us that this issue is growing, and has beengrowing over the last years, and it's skills in many ways.
And what's more problematic is even on the development sideof programming language like Natural or ADS. There's not a lot of people out there anymore, We all know that people who graduatefrom the schools these days that have one job and all this good stuff they rather be programminggames or stuff in Java.
Andthe third one is agility. So people are used to these days to, you know, have interfaces, phone like interfaces,search possibilities like Google. And then they expect that individual also, evenon the development side all thesemodern things that typically again do not come out on the mainframe, you know. There's this: Yousimply don't have that agility to go with all these things. Introduce micro services is a very easy way to have it.
Walter Sweat - Astadia CTO: I'm curious. Um, and I'vecertainly seen the same where there are organizations who suffer theconsequences of cost or agility, or people skills. Do you find that there are organizationswho actually suffer from all three of those challenges?
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: I think, to some extent every midterm organization suffers from all three, and for some atthe moment it's less a pressing issue than for others.
Walter Sweat - Astadia CTO: In the last twenty five years Ihave yet to see an organization who says, you know what? I’m not paying too much for mymainframe. I've got more COBOLprogrammers than I know what to do with, and I can keep up with changingbusiness needs. There is always something, and sometimes, as you say, all three components thatcome into play?
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: Yes, yeah, absolutely. Well, now we've talked about in the past. The famous Gartner five Rs: rewrite, replace, rearchitect an soon. Sometimes it's six, sometimes it's seven, and now sometimes I hear eveneight different Rs.
Walter Sweat - Astadia CTO: I would be interested to knowfrom your perspective,Mario, how do companies decide which of the multiple five Rs are mostappropriate for them to consider.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: As I said, I've introduced this kind of framework that you knowhelps people decide with traffic, light analysis, and I've extended it in thebook for a number of these Rs.So, on the very highlevel, I've taken the five Rs.So the first one is retire. It's very seldom, maybe, in a merger like two companies merge and one of the applications getsretired sometimes. Maybe the last policy of a long-standing insurance is ascomponent and the application.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: But that's the first one we use this one that we see very often, andthat's where the lifetime of a mainframe is kind of extended. It's anencapsulated that's the words that are used for the so. The third one isrebuilt that means you kind of rewrite the application from scratch.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: the last one, or the four hundred and twenty-three places for themost i'm sorry for that is replaced sometimes also called reinvision, wherethey say, Well, this application does not longer support the business needs.The application is out of date.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: It's from a functional or business supporting point of view. Andyou're just according to new specs, rewrite arts or the entire application,pure new development or implementation of a package.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: And of course these are pretty easy, I think, to decide and to do toto see what you what you need. The fifth one is, it is a totally differentcategory. I've called them renovate
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: and and renovate on the renovate. You would have a a number ofsubcategories, a relevant means, really, that you have a legacy.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: But the legacy, and you know I, at least, when when I I talk aboutor use the word legacy I use. I think, about two things. It's first of all,it's It's something old, and you see it's by definition old. But secondly, it'salso something of value that you inherit,
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: and many mainframe applications are called legacy. But I think, withthe two meanings,
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: when you want to renovate, you can do this with with with withofferings. So you want to extend, in other words, the lifespan of theapplication. And within the renovate category basically there are there are anumber of flavor, Sol. So there's four
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: and and of each flavor. There's even some flavours before ourre-host new, you know, re-platform do it with with software refactor. And in in the booklet the framework talks about these, the prosand some flavors of these, and we also evaluate them according to six criteria.And these six criteria are the first three are the ones we just talked about.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: You know the how well do they solve the issues that that we seethere, and the the issue of cost, skills and agility. And then there are three.Let's say more project or result oriented the criteria that is, first of allthe product duration. It takes six years to do it. It's maybe not a good idea,
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: because cost is, of course, also influenced partially by theprosecution. But there's definitely other aspects also, and last, but at leastI find personally very, very important also that this the risk of a new lookAgain, I might sound like a record, but certainly these people with old Fourgout of stuff. They have been booked in the environment that taking a bad and ahard time getting out, and he had to pay money every year. So the last thingyou want is to end up
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: again in such a situation. I think so. That's the six criteria thatare introduced to evaluate each approach Basically,
Walter Sweat - Astadia CTO: perfect. Thank you. Um, let'stalk about renegade for a second. I'm curious. How important do you feel thatautomation is to the effort when you're in that renovation category.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: I think automation is is key, and automation is extremely important,and I know there are solutions out there
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: for many good reasons that do not go as far as one hundred percent,and i'll come back to a one hundred percent means. But I think those solutionsdefinitely only work for small applications,
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: and we've seen that in the past years they delivered excellentresults, so that would be no misunderstanding that the results are excellent.But if you don't automate, you can maybe handle like an application of fivehundred thousand, maybe one million. That's it. One million lines of code
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: and war is simply impossible that the task comes to daunting and toorisky takes too long testing becomes too difficult. So automation is key andautomation. I think one should look at three levels of automation. The firstone is probably straightforward, that is, automation of the transformations andand the conversions. Your your data structures go from visa.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: I have you from Dvd. Maybe to to a already be your sequel server. Orhave you also the language you need to make sure the language is converted onehundred percent. This can be global,
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: quite straightforward. Again, that's the file. The difference thatyou have to handle. But it's also global to Java over the natural natural Javaover to see Sharp also that I think should be true that that post transformationshould be done hundred percent ultimate from a strong believe that that's theonly way to handle, you know. And a feasible way, and the second level of automation that you need to introduce,according to our view, I think, is is testing
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: The main aspect of a migration project. It's not the conversions and transformation, but it's the testing. You know it's a hugetesting efforts. Most of the time Clients do not have up to date best casesavailable anymore. So you also have to to find a way to deal with that andautomated this because migrating ten million lines of code means basically you're doingthe migration. Maybe that day. You do it often. You know it. You do it againand again and again, until you have to trust the confidence and everythingworks perfect. So that means you have to do versions again again. But also youhave to do the testing. Again and again. An automated just, by the way, willnot only discover things that
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: we might discover also by doing a manual semi-manually, but alsoeven things that we would we would have a hard fact to find like attributefairs like protected fields and stuff like that, if they should be the same,and they should be the same, and that that's the test and laws. But at leastthe third level is the process itself.
So also the migration process or the steps that need to be gone through, convert the screens, converted data, launch the testingproduct and hold that cycle. That should also be within a pipeline, we just automate it, and you can then just make sure you haveeverything ready. Push the button, and the whole process starts again and againand again. And that's that's That's how I believe successful migration projectsfor large scale enterprise applications can and should be done.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director ModernizationSolutions: That standard methodology is so important and ensuring, as youmentioned, that testing is accounted for with the intensity that it deserves is critical on these migrations.
Walter Sweat - Astadia CTO: I'd like to go back to cost for a second something that is relatively new, or you are in the marketplaceNow is the concept of subscription, pricing versus perpetual pricing. I'm. I'm.Curious your thoughts about how people need to consider those as differentfactors to take into account.
Mario Mees - Astadia Managing Director Modernization Solutions: Let me share a short story. We were originally not a Migration Company, and we were in packages for service companies. And we ended up building migration tool, because we built it for ourselves. We ran our packageon the obsolete midterm. All the clients of the public range platform came to see it and say, Can you help us? So we kind of ended up in this space as a client rather than as a vendor, and we still have that mentality. So I thinkwe are a vendor that likes to think as a client.
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