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Mainframe Modernization Approaches: Episode 2 of 5

November 13, 2019
February 26, 2020

Video with Astadia, CTO, Steve Steuart & Micro Focus Government Solutions, Chief Technologist,  Kevin Hansen

Video Transcription:

Kevin Hanson:
So when we talk about implementing this now, obviously there are different approaches to modernization. Historically, we've talked about retiring applications that are no longer necessary. We've talked about replacing applications with COTS applications or commercial off the shelf applications. You can obviously rewrite the applications from scratch. You can refactor those applications into new languages. Or you can re-platform those applications to a cloud-like environment.

Kevin Hanson:
Now there's a lot of trade offs with these various approaches. Obviously you're not going to retire a mission critical application that you need today. Rewriting that application has an extremely high cost and there's certainly risk involved with losing some of the business logic in the existing application. Some of these options take longer as well so there's a lot of trade offs when it comes to these approaches. So given a Astadia's success really with hundreds and hundreds of these projects. I'm sure you've looked at these approaches so why is re-platform and cloud such an attractive approach?

Steve Steuart:
If the application is still relevant to your business and to your agency, that makes it a perfect fit because if you try to take a tailored application and try to map that to a COTS application, two things happen. You either adopt to the COTS tool or the COTS tool adapts to you. And your business processes get impacted and that's really costly. The other thing, these systems are not documented. So if you're going to go and rewrite, the large SI's love longterm rewrite application, let me document everything and let me rewrite everything. They just love those. Re-platform, common denominator there is COBOL. So we just take a lift and shift it, re-platform that and run that.

Steve Steuart:
So we've seen that, but also don't treat that to be as a pure infrastructure play. What the cloud brings to you now is the tools that Micro Focus has is a cloud native platform that I'm able to then tap into other things. So our tried and true has been moving and doing that re-platform.

Steve Steuart:
And there's some compliments to rewriting or eliminating business. You may have things in Assembler that don't really map over to the cloud that you just replaced with other technologies.

Kevin Hanson:
Right, right. So it seems very pragmatic and certainly you get time to market a bit faster as well with that approach.

Steve Steuart:
Yes, it's definitely the fastest path to cloud. There's no doubt about it. It's proven. Re-factoring has got some great tools, but there's gives and gets. It's just two different languages, procedural to object oriented. There's gives and gets, but at least with the COBOL you're able to do that. And you also address the skill. People go, "Well, if I don't have COBOL today, how am I going to get COBOL developers tomorrow?" The difference is with the IDEs like Visual Studio and Eclipse, these new developers today are multi dialect. They learn in Java, C, R, Python and COBOL is one of the easiest languages to pick up. And having that investment that Micro Focus has done with Visual Studio and Eclipse, allows them to be proficient in that environment.

Kevin Hanson:
I'm glad you mentioned that because certainly within government, skilling the workforce for the cloud, transitioning that training from existing systems to these new distributed systems can be a big effort. So that's an important aspect.

Steve Steuart:
So what happens is the agencies are bringing in, "I need a COBOL developer." And they get the standard, "I'm sorry." 40, 50 year old individual shows up, but if you put a young programmer, you're going to be a COBOL developer here, and then you give them a green screen and TSO, IPF and they kind of go, "What am I doing here?" Where if you give them a familiar ID that they use in college, came out with a Eclipse And Visual Studio. There you go.

Kevin Hanson:
And you guys have success doing this at Astadia.

Steve Steuart:
I was a mainframe guy and I didn't think that this transition was going to happen. And then when we took one of our interns and said, this is a language called COBOL, I don't want to learn it because his scars were a green screen. But when we gave them Visual Studio and Eclipse. Here's your mouse and TeleSense, hover all that. I mean, those are the plugins that make it easier to program.

Kevin Hanson:
Fantastic.

Steve Steuart:
So you're able to address that. That is a passing of the baton moment, old green screen COBOL to new in the cloud.

Kevin Hanson:
So again, addressing this time to value, making this shift to the cloud, aligning not just the technology, but also your people in your processes with that too.

Steve Steuart:
That's correct. And then we'll get into this later, but the art of the possible. Was it possible to use AI?

Kevin Hanson:
It's not possible to do machine learning on these old mainframe. On the cloud it's opening up tons of frameworks and that's a rejuvenation that you could do with your applications. And that's why COBOL will be here another 60 years, easily.

Steve Steuart:
Yeah, absolutely. Fantastic.

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