Keeping Old Apps Running

IBM's Global Services adopts Relativity Technologies' Modernization Workbench for its Legacy Transformation Services.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

June 9, 2003

2 Min Read

A Cobol tool used to analyze and update legacy systems has been adopted by IBM's Global Services as a primary instrument for its Legacy Transformation Services.

Relativity Technologies Inc.'s Modernization Workbench is a Cobol analysis tool that can identify and document the logic path in an old, tangled, application that has been changed many times over a 20- or 30-year period. Such a tool is needed because legacy Cobol is "a reliable workhorse, but it's difficult to integrate and takes a lot of time and resources to maintain," says IBM Global Marketing Leader Kathy Hansan.

Modernization Workbench can identify the Cobol code that contains the business rules being used, allowing an object wrapper to be built around a set of lines of Cobol. The wrapper in effect breaks the legacy system into a set of units that are callable as discrete application functions or services. Relativity's Modernization Workbench is designed to help move users in a sequence of incremental steps toward renovating the legacy application functions with the greatest business value.

At the Mental Health Department of Los Angeles County, about 2,500 health-care and mental-health professionals enter information about clients or learn the status of cases by accessing the department's legacy systems, called the Mental Health Management Information System, through a Web-based Java application.

The system "breaks infrequently and does what it's supposed to do," says John Campbell, division chief in charge of special projects. That's why the department made a decision not to try to reengineer it or replace it. Instead, Campbell built wrappers around the CICS/Cobol legacy applications to implement a new Web application.

"Trying to replace it would be very high risk and potentially wasteful," of IT budget dollars if the project failed, he says. Campbell's team used Modernization Workbench to analyze the CICS/Cobol code and capture application functionality in separate modules of Cobol code.

They used the software to trace business functions through the complex code, which had been changed many times since its original authoring. The Workbench could show when specific variables lead to unexpected branches in the application logic that a human inspection might have missed, Campbell says.

By understanding what was happening to the data in the legacy code, the department was able to build a new Java front-end application running on a Web server that provided information updates and captured transactions for a broad base of professional users.

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About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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