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Sounding Off About The Legacy Monster

Vendors weigh in...

Solutions Need To Address The Problem
Bob Evans' recent article on the monster in the basement outlined a whole host (no pun intended) of reasons the current mainstay for companies--legacy--is eating up resources. Well, you know what? I agree with him. Integration costs are horrendous and often companies don't even get the functionality they need when the whole project is said and done. And we haven't even mentioned time line.

Where Mr. Evans and I deviate, however, is in our solution to the problem.

What do Y2K compliance, New Coke, Beta cassette players, and wholesale movement off the mainframe all have in common? These are all ideas that looked good on paper but just didn't pan out. The recent push to deviate from mainframe technologies presents similar issues. While transferring all of that data (as much as 80% of mission-critical applications for Fortune 500 companies) would eventually solve the problems Mr. Evans described, enterprises will also encounter problems such as losing data, large (and I mean large) up-front costs, and time lines in the three-year category. And what does being off the mainframe buy you? Getting rid of your company's mainframe causes just as many problems as it's supposed to solve. Much like the "great ideas" of the past few years I listed above, the reality is much less attractive than the dream.

Instead, I recommend the following approach to help ensure that your solution is less about technology for technology's sake and more about a viable, profitable solution:

• Work backward from your business need. What do you want to do today? What do you want to do next year? How about in five years? What is your ideal? In most cases, companies will want new users to use existing business processes, to use portions of existing business processes to serve a new business need, or to have new business processes consume existing data.
• Find a solution that eliminates your points of pain, not just puts them off. Cost, time frame, and functionality seem to be the most popular, as reiterated by Mr. Evans.
• Examine what you have and determine what's salvageable--no sense in throwing the baby out with the bath water. In this case, it's the mainframe.

Once you've taken inventory on the above process, you're in a position to choose your route. At Attachmate, we're seeing our customers choose the leave-it-on-the-mainframe route, while still meeting their urgent business needs. They're integrating legacy applications into new enterprise applications (including E-business initiatives) quickly and with little legacy programming knowledge, leveraging existing business applications for immediate ROI rather than waiting on lengthy EAI projects, and solving problems now without limiting options down the road.

Solutions to enterprise issues should be firmly rooted in the problem and less in the fanfare of new technology. Am I saying this to sell technology? Well, I am biased--but then, so are the hardware vendors fueling the "abandon your mainframe all ye who enter here" fires. And New Coke was a really, really bad idea.
Markus Nitschke
VP Marketing, Attachmate





A Clear Picture
Since helping organizations optimize their application portfolios is Keane's mission, we read with interest Bob Evans' recent article on the "monster" of legacy applications.

No legacy application is an asset if its costs exceed the value delivered. Although IT application portfolios are, as a whole, immensely valuable assets, they universally contain a mixture of high, low, and medium value-producing applications.
Low-value applications accumulate over time through aging, mergers and acquisitions, technology shifts, and never-quite-completed replacement projects. These applications are disproportionately expensive to the level of business value they produce. Worse, they draw funds and resources away from higher value-producing opportunities.

Application aging is inevitable, but taking a disciplined approach to low-value applications can mitigate their consequences, saving resources and increasing the overall value of the application portfolio.

One approach to address legacy systems is Applications Rationalization, which provides a systematic way to improve the business performance of IT portfolios by quantifying the business value, cost, and risk conditions for each application within the portfolio, eliminating or retiring redundant and end-of-life applications, and upgrading applications that still produce value.

By the end of an Applications Rationalization assessment, an organization will have a clear picture of the current state of all its application assets. This approach frees budgets and IT staff for new development and other value-adding activities. It also allows for elimination of noncore technologies and platforms to produce even greater savings.
Mike Fenske
Senior VP, Keane Consulting Group





Mystery No More
I retired last year from Accenture and am now associated with Pathpoint Software, the creator of a unique tool that's just being introduced to the market called APPeX (application expert) that takes the mystery out of how legacy applications work. Your "Monster In The Basement" article caught my eye because APPeX addresses exactly the same issues discussed in your article.

For business transactions you select, APPeX dynamically collects the actual application processing as each business transaction executes. It captures the input and output screens, transactions executed, program modules called, call statements in the sequence they're issued, data elements accessed, and how.

APPeX is not a systemwide monitoring tool. You only use it to collect application activity for the business transactions you're interested in.

APPeX is a significant productivity boost to anyone who needs to understand how their applications actually process each business transaction. There were many projects I was involved in during my Accenture career that could have greatly benefited from using APPeX. The time and cost savings on many of the projects would have been substantial.
William J. Vance
VP, Pathpoint Software





The Four R's
When addressing the challenge of extending or replacing legacy systems, there are essentially four approaches that an organization can take, the Four R's:

• Reengineer critical business processes to impact the bottom line.
• Replace outdated and inefficient applications.
• Rewrite using emerging technologies.
• Rehost to extend the life of the application.

As part of our application integration service, Information Management Resources offers customers the ability to rehost legacy applications on an open platform. Rehosting allows companies to leverage their investment in legacy applications by modernizing without the risks, costs, and time commonly associated with rewrite and/or replacement strategies.

Partnering with software providers such as Acucorp, we can provide tools to allow organizations to migrate applications from closed legacy environments to open platforms such as Windows, Unix, or Linux. Once the applications are rehosted in an open environment, we can provide application enhancements, including additional functionality, integration to target applications, first- and second-level graphical user interfaces, and intranet/Internet deployment.

Legacy transformation, in conjunction with EAI packages and new development, has the capacity to meet a variety of information-related requirements in less time, for less money, and at lower risk.
Matthew Sewell
Business Solutions Specialist, Information Management Resources





Monsters Tamed
We have been bloodlessly slaying dragons for many years. Late in the 1990s, we came to the conclusion that for many businesses, the monsters had melded with the fabric on which businesses depended--and that rather than slay the monsters, we needed to keep them healthy but shackled. Our patented approach was to open up windows into the basement and, harnessing the natural forces of sunlight, photosynthesis, and vitamin D production (RDP, X, 3270, etc.), we discovered that they weren't really such awful monsters, but with loving care, could become flexible earthquake defenses.

Tarantella has enabled hundreds of thousands of users to take advantage of the power of their legacy monsters (Unix, Windows, mainframe applications) from within the airy modern Internet world. Working alongside Web-based applications, users have discovered that their monsters weren't really so bad after all but had just had a bad press...
John Bondi
Director of Performance & Test, Tarantella



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