Mainframe COBOL/CICS/VSAM to Java Application Server & Relational DB
TL;DR — Watch the video below to see how Heirloom automatically takes a complex mainframe warehousing application to Java in 60 seconds with 100% accuracy, guaranteed.
Migrating mainframe workloads to anywhere is hard, right?
You may have seen vendor presentations that promise an assured migration process, led by analysis tools that paint interrelationships between application artifacts that bedazzle (mislead) you into believing that the complexity is well understood. I get it. It looks good; impressive even.
It’s also blatant vendor misdirection.
What you are seeing is superficial at best. A “shiny object” that distracts you from the complexity ahead, and one that steers you towards an expensive multi-year services-led engagement that is aligned with the vendors business model, not yours.
Just ask the vendor “where does the application get deployed?”. If the answer is not “any Java Application Server“, you are being quietly led into a dependency on a labyrinthic proprietary black-box that underpins an enforced application software architecture (e.g. MVC). Any assertions that you are now on an agile, open, scalable, performant platform, die right there.
I’m not going to get into an extensive takedown (in this article) of why migration transformation toolsets that are borne of application analyzers are a hugely expensive strategic misstep because I’d like you to spend the next 60 seconds watching how astoundingly fast Heirloom is at transforming mainframe applications to Java.
Need a recap? What you saw was a mainframe COBOL/CICS implementation of the TPC-C benchmark (an application with over 50,000 LOC and 7 BMS screens) being compiled by Heirloom (without any code changes) and deployed to a Java Application Server for immediate execution via a browser. All the data for this application was previously migrated from VSAM (EBCDIC encoded) to an RDBMS (ASCII encoded). In later articles, we’ll demonstrate how Heirloom migrates mainframe batch, data and security profiles just as quickly.
Although the resulting application is 100% Java (and deployable on-premise or to any cloud), Heirloom provides full support (via Eclipse plug-ins) for on-going development of the application in the host language (COBOL in this example, but PL/I also) or in the target language (i.e. Java), or both. This was done because any transformation is not just about the application artifacts. People are obviously a big part of the IP equation, and securing the engagement of IT staff is essential to ensure a successful transformation. Not just on day 1, but for many years post-deployment.
Running a proprietary assembler program written over 40 years ago engineers at NASA were able to use the voyagers thrusters to replace attitude correction engine that had degraded over the last 40 years. This extends the lifetime of the voyager 1 probe for another 2 or 3 years.
Is there are finer example than this that old code is not always bad code? Old code also continues to fulfill vital roles for NASA in the same way that it does for your business.
I did not start to write this article with the expectation that I would be comparing mainframe applications to rocket science but when the facts fit…
Just like the incredible continuing value of the assembler code running on Voyager 1 let us take a moment to remember the incredible value of the code living on your mainframe.
Re-purposing hardware and executing decades old code on it has significantly extended voyage 1’s life expectancy. We can use the same analogy for existing mainframe applications.
If we migrate the application using Heirloom we are changing the hardware environment but keeping the existing code and giving it a new lease of life. This will extend the lifetime of these applications and actually increase their value to your company. Migrated applications do not just run in a new environment, their data, previously hidden away in an EBCDIC silo, suddenly becomes accessible to the rest of the enterprise. Imagine adding decades of experience in the form of your companies data to a big data model designed to generate actionable business insights.
This is part 1 of a series of articles investigating why organisations should consider Mainframe Migration, the options they have and the steps they need to take to transform their mainframe workloads to run on the cloud.
Lets set the scene a little bit for a typical large organisation that runs business critical applications on the mainframe.
Your mainframe and your mainframe applications just run.
It causes no heartache, no troubles, when was the last time it “went down”?
If it wasn’t for the pesky leasing payments and the endless contract renewal discussions you probably wouldn’t give it too much thought.
But there are a few vague, uneasy, feelings:
Perhaps you are not as responsive to your customers’ requirements as you could be.
At month end, quarter end, year end, the batch jobs are only just completing in the batch window
There are a lot of grey beards in the PL/1, COBOL teams
Adding a new type of customer contract takes months with the mainframe screens and seemingly minutes with the web team.
Lets face it a green screen does not have the possibilities to represent data that a modern web browser supports
Would you rather be working with this green screen? A COBOL/CICS application that has been deployed to Pivotal Cloud Foundry using Heirloom.
Or with this Angular and D3 application that is also running on Pivotal Cloud Foundry and using exactly the same back end COBOL/CICS program to run the amortization calculation?
Your companys’ “front-end” applications are being delivered using industry best practices, continuous integration and continuous deployment, CI/CD, of the applications is de rigueur and perhaps most importantly your customers are extremely happy with the features the responsiveness and the look and feel. These applications and the teams that create them are agile in a way that the Mainframe group is not.
At the same time these web applications are now capable of the same reliability as your mainframe environment, not because every single component works all the time, but because every component has fail-over redundancy built in. It is a different reliability model to be sure but one to which the organisation is gradually becoming accustomed.
Your company is also becoming accustomed to hardware costs for running the non mainframe applications to actually fall each year and yet still eke out higher and higher performance. Need to have a little performance kick for black Friday, just automatically scale out some more application instances, and pay for the extra throughput performance ONLY when it is needed.
So now the scene is set, check back here for the next post where I will lay out various Mainframe Migration options and the pros and cons of each one.
Would you be skeptical of a claim from a vendor that stated you can take existing mainframe workloads (online and batch), and automatically transform them (with 100% accuracy) into instantly agile Java applications that can immediately be deployed to the cloud? You wouldn’t be alone. For many of our initial client meetings, there’s a palpable sense of disbelief (or, healthy skepticism if you prefer).
So, here’s another 3-minute video from Ian White, Heirloom Computing’s VP of Engineering that demonstrates that claim, using Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF).
What happened? We took an online mainframe application and deployed it to PCF in 3 minutes. No misdirection, real code, real results, and a re-platforming project lifecycle that puts you in control (so you can avoid black-box solutions).
For us at Heirloom Computing, Cloud Foundry is a great example of how Heirloom maximizes the power of open source stacks to provide clients with a way to include high-value mainframe workloads in strategic initiatives (e.g. cloud, digital transformation etc). One that protects existing function, but also one that is seamlessly integrated with an agile ecosystem.
There’s a lot of chatter about how to make mainframe workloads agile. I have contributed to that chatter myself. The discourse is essential. Boiled down, my assertion is that the mainframe ecosystem is foundationally not agile (and never will be). No amount of DevOps tooling, nor vendor misdirection is going to change that.
Mainframe workloads are an essential part of any digital transformation strategy, but those workloads will persist in a different form. One that protects existing function, but also one that is seamlessly integrated with an agile ecosystem.
Below is a (3 minute) video that implements the above statement. It was put together inside 2 hours by Heirloom Computing’s VP of Engineering, Ian White.
This was a mainframe application that was compiled (unchanged) to Java and executed on the cloud using Heirloom, which automatically makes the workload instantly agile (all transactions are immediately accessible as a service). Agile enough for Ian to very quickly hook it up to Alexa.
TL;DR — see picture above, or… a career COBOL’er makes a compelling argument that legacy application systems (COBOL et al) on the IBM Mainframe are killing IT digital transformation initiatives.
So, a heads-up… this article is going to be self-serving (at least to start with, perhaps longer), as I’ve come to the conclusion that it is necessary for me to “introduce” myself in an attempt to establish a greater level of credibility than I might otherwise be able to muster!
I’ve been working for over 30 years. My entire career has been in the “COBOL space”, the vast majority of it working with Global 2000 companies to deliver COBOL application development & deployment platforms that were primarily focused on adding value to the IBM Mainframe (“The World’s Greatest Legacy Ecosystem”).
I have worked at the “coal face” developing bespoke commercial COBOL applications. I have worked developing COBOL compilers and runtimes. I have led global teams of astoundingly brilliant people that have built COBOL ecosystems from scratch. Back in 2010, myself and a group of others with similar career profiles, and significantly greater areas of expertise, founded Heirloom Computing to bring a new COBOL ecosystem to market.
Heirloom leverages open-source software stacks (primarily Java); one that immediately exposes existing business rules from mainframe workloads as a collection of Java interfaces and RESTful services so they are immediately available to other applications; one that from day 1 is absolutely guaranteed to accurately retain existing business logic, data integrity, and security profiles; one that allows application developers (using Eclipse) to continue in COBOL, or Java, or both, so IT can “iterate away” from a constrained model to an agile one, at a pace that is determined by their own unique business drivers. This approach removes the “re-platforming” risk and makes the workload instantly agile.
We did this because we believe (and our investors and customers have validated) that IT needs to get beyond decades-old legacy systems if they are going to compete in a digital world.
Credibility enhanced? Either way, on we go…
The IBM Mainframe is without a doubt (and by far) “The World’s Greatest Legacy Ecosystem”. It’s reliability, pervasiveness, and keeper of systems of record is unmatched. Today, however, that proud legacy is increasingly burdensome. These (crucial) systems: are severely & systemically constrained (and today, agility really matters); have paralyzed IT with a (fearful non-viable) “do nothing” strategy which consequently inhibits execution of strategic initiatives (like digital transformation) that are needed to compete. And up to this point, we’ve not even mentioned the operational expense nor the risks of an ever aging/depleting skills pool.
Some of these systems, especially in government, have eroded/warped to the point that paper processes have been introduced to integrate legacy workloads with new services! This is NOT a failure of DevOps, nor tooling, but a failure of leadership and the brutal reality that mainframe systems of record are inherently NOT agile because a) they were never designed that way, and b) the COBOL ecosystem itself (an archaic compute-model, a procedural language, a failure to embrace open source, a lack of application frameworks, an entrenched culture, …) is NOT agile.
In article, after article, after article, IT leaders and analysts have clearly identified the challenge. Progressive enterprises like GE and Capital One are already working on solutions. Mainframe workloads are an essential part of any digital transformation strategy, but those workloads will persist in a different form. One that protects existing function, but also one that is seamlessly integrated with an agile ecosystem.
LJM will leverage their quickly expanding footprint in Australasia as the exclusive systems integrator for Heirloom’s ground-breaking Heirloom platform.
“There’s real leadership from enterprise CIO’s in Australasia who understand that standing-still with legacy systems is not an option when executing digital transformation strategies,” said Larry McGean, LJM’s CEO. “LJM shares this outlook and is now uniquely positioned to help CIO’s deliver lT for legacy workloads which are aging fast, and approaching a tipping point. Critically, they are already inhibitors to the execution of an increasing number of strategic initiatives.”
Kevin Moultrup, Heirloom’s COO, added, “Our team has been working with LJM for several years now, and we are excited to formalize our partnership with LJM to deliver high-quality proven software solutions to Australasia’s most recognized companies.”
About Heirloom Computing
Heirloom Computing is a global enterprise software company that partners with Systems Integrators to implement initiatives that enable the Global 2000 to automatically modernize legacy application systems to Java and the cloud where they can be aligned with broader strategic initiatives such as digital transformation — whilst guaranteeing to retain existing business logic and data integrity. For more information about how Heirloom can increase agility, and save IT departments time & money, please visit http://www.heirloomcomputing.com.
About LJM Global Cyborg Specialist
In coordination with its field offices in Sydney and Melbourne, LJM purses software solution opportunities around the globe. Specializing in company-wide implementations of packaged systems such as SumTotal Payroll, Workday HR Integrations, Blue Prism IPA, QlikView/Sense, and now automated mainframe workload transformations with Heirloom. For more information, please visit http://ljmcyborg.com.
Not 3 words you’d immediately assemble together, but that’s exactly what Senior ComputerWorld Editor, Patrick Thibodeau, did yesterday.
His article was prompted by a White House announcement of an “Office of American Innovation” to oversee the modernization of federal IT.
The article then goes on to give Compuware a platform to launch a somewhat bizarre defense of COBOL, as if somehow, wrapping COBOL applications up in DevOps methodologies makes them agile, and consequently, the mainframe can be seen as (according to Chris O’Malley, Compuware’s President/CEO) “… a working environment that looks exactly like Amazon (Web Services)”.
No. It’s not. There’s no amount of makeup that you can apply to my face to make me look like Brad Pitt. Fundamentally, all the required structures for that transformation just do not exist.
There’s much to applaud with Compuware’s mission to modernize and retool the application development lifecycle on the mainframe and impart valuable new skill sets to a workforce that has been largely isolated from considering different approaches to the art of application development. However, beyond that DevOps veneer, you are still working with COBOL. If that’s where you want to be, go for it.
As Shawn McCarthy, an analyst at IDC said later in the article: “… the challenge with older COBOL systems is that many were not designed to be extensible and everything that needs to be done has to rely on custom code”.
And that’s essentially why no matter how much makeup you apply, COBOL systems on the mainframe will never be truly agile. Instead, for as long as they persist, they will continue to be an increasingly burdensome anchor that will slowly but surely impinge on an enterprise’s ability to compete.
FREMONT, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Heirloom Computing today announced that OCLC has utilized Heirloom to enhance IT agility by transforming a mission-critical mainframe workload to a cost-effective, open-systems platform.
When OCLC needed to enhance IT agility, they discovered that Heirloom was aligned with their need to modernize their application portfolio, and move away from their dependence on an inflexible and expensive IBM mainframe infrastructure.
“Heirloom’s platform and outstanding project team delivered on the promise of automatically transforming and deploying a complex mainframe workload to 100% Java in 90 days,” said Tim Schwab, Director of Enterprise Applications at OCLC.
Kevin Moultrup, Heirloom’s COO, said “With automatic transformation of mainframe workloads and guaranteed preservation of existing business logic, Heirloom enables any company with an expensive legacy infrastructure, to move with great speed to a Java platform that is cloud enabled.”
OCLC is a global library cooperative that provides shared technology services, original research and community programs for its membership and the library community at large. We are librarians, technologists, researchers, pioneers, leaders and learners. With thousands of library members in more than 100 countries, we come together as OCLC to make information more accessible and more useful.
About Heirloom Computing, Inc.
Heirloom Computing is on a mission to modernize the world’s business-critical enterprise software applications. Heirloom’s best-in-class tools seamlessly migrate legacy systems to private and public cloud computing infrastructures, so IT departments can reap the cost benefits of cloud computing and satisfy user demands for applications accessible via web browsers and mobile devices.
For more information about how Heirloom Computing’s legacy transformation platform can save IT departments time and money, please visit www.heirloomcomputing.com.