I’ve now been a part of a lot of DevOps projects. I’ve seen entire DevOps practices migrated into the cloud and entire legacy ball of mud applications transformed from monolith to microservices. However, it’s the fringe projects that I’ve found to be really interesting. These include deep integration around data ingestion, IoT development, and massive mainframe and ERP systems.
Over the past year, I’ve seen several customers and industries explore and even begin to move some of their legacy environments into the cloud. For example, migrating a part or your entire SAP ecosystem onto Google Cloud Platform, or, moving your entire Oracle ecosystem into the cloud. Finally, working with massive IBM AS/400 architectures and moving (or refactoring) those components into the cloud.
There are several reasons as to why so many organizations have hesitated in moving or modernizing these systems. Reasons include:
- Fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Let’s be honest, not a lot of people have done this. And, it can be scary to move your entire business engine into the cloud. There aren’t a lot of use-cases, and moving these platforms can be really risky. Many organizations simply can’t afford this multi-million-dollar experiment.
- Complexity. Some AS/400 systems have been in place for years; even decades. Know what? They work. The same goes for massive ERP systems. Many organizations are ingrained in working with their SAP solution, but only on premise.
- Cost and Investment. Some enterprises have invested millions, and even tens of millions of dollars into their ERP and mainframe systems. They have put in years of development, investment in infrastructure, contracts, personnel, and so much more. You’d need to show some real ROI to even consider moving these systems to the cloud.
Now for some good news. Organizations are realizing that to disrupt a digital-driven market, they must themselves be disrupted. This means breaking traditional deployment paradigms and looking at ways to migrate mainframes and even ERP systems into the cloud. Or, looking ways powerful hybrid solutions can help.
The winds of cloud are bringing change
Over the past year, I’ve been involved in some really interesting projects. I’ve had the chance to discuss these solutions with customers as well as large enterprise customers looking to change the way they do things with ERP and mainframe architectures. I want to share two specific examples:
Migrating more than 6 million lines of legacy RPG/Synon code into a service-oriented architecture compatible with cloud deployment. This is a story of a massive IBM AS/400 system that was simply not pulling its weight for an organization that was looking to become a digital native. This project was massive, but also highly doable with excellent planning. After some thorough legacy code analysis, more than 6 million lines of code were migrated and more than 150 integration points were re-written. Yes, this includes custom tools developed to review RPG code, green screen analyzers, and even leveraging X-2E tools for traceability review and visualization of legacy code. Furthermore, it included migrating from IBM DB2 to a much more agile MariaDB.
Here’s the big part, once complete, the entire migration also included a DevOps practice to allow the customer to continue to innovate and expand. Was this easy to do? No. Did this take some creative thinking and customized toolsets? Absolutely. But was it worth it? You better believe it. For this customer, migrating this part of the business meant integrating multiple lines of business into one digital framework. And, for the industry and the customer, this truly set them apart.
Migrating SAP Hana and other components into the cloud. Moving an ERP system into the cloud can be a seriously complex process. Plus, if you get it wrong, there can be serious consequences for the business. Remember, for enterprises, ERP solutions like SAP are literally their entire business engine. Once you overcome that fear, you begin to see the big picture and architect a design for the future.
The most successful migrations that I’ve seen have all been done through proof-of-concepts in parallel designs. Let’s say, for example, you wanted to move a part or all of your SAP ecosystem into Google Cloud Platform (GCP). To do so, you’d need to:
- Understand how, for example, S/4HANA fit into the environment and the specific benefits it provides.
- Identify key gaps in business requirements
- Analyze the underlying landscape
- Create a vision of the target cloud solution and outline the SAP roadmap as a transformation project
In one customer scenario, we were able to integrate a massively complicated eCommerce engine with SAP and GCP. We leveraged SAP HANA, Google BigQuery, Google DoubleClick, and other components to create a holistic design built around a hybrid cloud architecture. From there, we saw that the design could actually leverage a powerful multicloud ecosystem. So, SAP Hybrid Marketing was migrated into AWS and more then 50 core systems were integrated between both GCP and AWS. This included SAP ERP (IS-R and AFS), SAP Business Warehouse, Salesforce, and more.
The big point with this project was a very careful approach. There was a proof of concept done ahead of time. Systems were tested for performance and integration capabilities and we were able to validate real-world results prior to taking anything into production.
I know this is a lot to take in. However, know that that there are already use-cases and scenarios where some of the biggest and most complicated ERP and even mainframe systems are being moved from legacy, monolithic, platforms into advanced digital solutions. All of this makes integration easier, evolves your own development process, and allows you to respond to a digital, data-driven, market.