By Charles Dickerson
Vice President of Marketing and Product Management
After a quick read of today's information technology press, you'd think the world's information systems are based on nothing more than Java and Web Services. But the reality is that the bread and butter applications of most large organizations still run in legacy environments. In fact, more than $1.5 trillion has been invested in COBOL applications, and more than 30 billion COBOL transactions occur daily - that's more than the total number of Web page hits on any given day.
The same Global 1000 companies that run the majority of their vital business operations on legacy systems are struggling to maintain and enhance those applications - but with fewer resources. On one side, declining budgets have forced teams to perform more activities with fewer resources. On the other side, the pool of professionals with skills in mainframe technologies is declining as developers retire and move on. In fact, the Gartner Group estimates that between 60 and 80 percent of an average company's IT budget is spent simply on maintaining existing mainframe systems and applications.
Yet these businesses aren't about to throw away their massive investment and institutional experience to hastily move to new architectures - especially after their massive tuning effort in the lead-up to Y2K. Instead, it will be companies that take an incremental approach to modernization in order to reduce maintenance costs and renovate their systems that will likely be the business and technology leaders of the future.
The simple fact is that maintaining legacy applications is expensive and time consuming. For instance, one of the largest global financial services firms has 600 COBOL programmers working every day to support mission-critical, mainframe-based applications. Companies must make legacy code developers more efficient in their efforts to maintain a massive collection of mainframe code, which often requires days of tedious analysis to invoke even the simplest changes and fixes.
As changes to legacy applications add up over the years, the systems become progressively more brittle. Modifications are often left undocumented due to time pressures, leaving development teams with little insight into hundreds of millions of lines of fragile code. Consequently, much of the day-to-day work of maintaining and enhancing applications requires impact analysis - tedious manual searches that sort through line after line of code.
Market pressures increasingly demand that businesses respond rapidly to change, or risk losing customers. Also, regulatory issues such as compliance with HIPAA and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act compel companies to fully comprehend and control their business processes. Without adequate understanding of their legacy applications, companies lose control of their business processes and jeopardize both their market and legal positions.
This compels businesses to find a solution that provides speedy and thorough analysis of these applications including impact analysis, plus the ability to enhance and renovate the system in order to organize the complex code. Relying on a solution such as this is the most effective strategy for application modernization.
As a business develops, it integrates accumulated experiences and strategies into its existing legacy applications. To simply abandon these applications is to lose a significant competitive advantage. The most effective solution is to preserve and renovate the critical business processes by developing an incremental modernization roadmap. Such modernization efforts reduce operational and maintenance costs associated with management of existing technology, as well as open up applications to more progressive capabilities such as integration and Web services.
Utilizing a roadmap to modernize applications, companies can increase agility and response to prevailing business challenges. Successful modernization programs include:
Following such a roadmap helps your team to more efficiently maintain and enhance your application portfolio — and move on to more valuable and forward looking activities. Further, the roadmap can guide you towards the renovation and re-architecting of legacy applications in order to improve efficiency and leverage emerging technologies.
With intense pressures to reduce costs and stay competitive, organizations must understand how best to approach application modernization. Following an incremental roadmap that lets your organization accrue benefits without losing institutional expertise gives companies a low risk strategy - with potentially tremendous benefits.
Vice President, Marketing and Product Management, Relativity Technologies
Charles Dickerson has over 15 years of product marketing and product management experience in the software industry where he successfully defined and delivered products for software developers. Most recently, he worked as an early stage VP of Marketing with multiple Austin Ventures portfolio companies who had received "seed round" funding from AV Labs and helped many of them secure "series A" funding. Prior to that, Mr. Dickerson worked as Director of Product Marketing for Pervasive Software where he successfully repositioned and re-branded the product line from Btrieve to Pervasive.SQL. He redefined the Pervasive products to include SQL support and created an SDK to support developers.
He has also held the position of Director of Product Marketing at Informix Software where he had marketing and product management responsibilities for all developer tools supporting Informix Online, XPS, and Universal Servers. He successfully changed the tools development platform from UNIX to Windows through repositioning and acquisition. In addition he was Product Marketing Manager for Illustra Information Technologies delivering product plans and tools strategies for their Object-Relational database server.
Mr. Dickerson has held the position of C++ Product Manager for Borland International delivering products for both DOS and Windows. And as Programmer for IBM performing system level testing of the Onboard Flight Software for NASA's space shuttle. He holds a BS degree from the University of Houston in Electrical Engineering Technology.
Relativity Technologies, Inc. provides the software, services and partnerships that let companies easily maintain, enhance, renovate and modernize business-critical mainframe applications. Its Modernization Workbench suite of solutions reduces overall application development and maintenance costs, streamlining everything from day-to-day tweaks and changes to full-scale modernization, including extending mainframe applications to embrace newer environments like the Internet and Web services. Founded in 1997 and based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., Relativity Technologies was selected as one of Fortune magazine's 2001 Cool Companies and Computerworld's Top 100 Emerging Companies for 2002. For more information, please visit www.relativity.com.
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