Numerous federal CIOs continue to wrestle with the complexities and costs associated with cumbersome legacy applications. Many of these applications have been in production from the early days of the mainframe era, and rely on legacy languages, including COBOL, Assembler and others. There are millions of lines of code providing mission support, but they are costing a bundle to maintain.
"We're facing a crisis that's bigger than Y2K," FCW reported U.S. CIO Tony Scott saying at a recent meeting of the President's Management Advisory Board. "The people who built [those systems] are leaving."
Scott added that as those retirements continue, legacy systems will become increasingly hard to operate and maintain, and the search for innovative services must increase. However, CIOs are not necessarily focused on replacing these critical applications right away.
Increasingly, they are more interested in developing a practical, actionable transition plan that will bring them full understanding of their current state and enable them to organize and modernize their applications. They know a staged approach will gradually place them in a better position to take advantage of modern cloud, mobile or big data technologies. They also realize that it will require both a cogent analysis and a strategic roadmap to provide their agency’s application owners with guideposts that enable informed decisions about options to modernize these applications. This may involve a re-hosting approach, retirement, or a re-architecture approach.
What CIOs may not realize is that the transition they are envisioning is not necessarily achieved quickly; in fact, it’s usually a multi-year journey that happens in stages. More and more, Dell Services Federal Government (DSFG) is hearing from federal agencies about their interest in exploring the re-hosting route to application modernization. An agency grappling with end-of-life software that has no upgrade options or obsolete infrastructure (e.g, mainframe technology) finds the prospect of “keeping the lights on” with a modern platform such as Linux or Unix attractive. Such a short-term fix can position the agency for a gradual transition to a more modern environment and achieve significant maintenance cost reductions.
Application re-hosting is a sensible first step on the modernization journey. Re-hosting solutions prolong the life of legacy code by moving existing business logic and data investments onto modern platforms, so business processes remain intact and costs drop. Re-hosting to a modern platform can be accomplished without negative impact on functionality and can be designed to accommodate future growth. Moving these investments off the mainframe reduces the annual operational expense (O&M funding) and can be reallocated to enable a completed modernization project with development, modernization, and enhancement dollars (DME funding).
It’s interesting to note that currently we are seeing a new trend in the federal space toward transferring best practices in industry and applying them to the modernization of government. This promises to be an exciting development to watch, since proven methodologies have been well-tested in industry and perfected in the commercial space for clients across the globe.
In my next blog, the final one in this application modernization series, I’ll examine situations in which the application re-architecture pathway provides the best course for achieving the CIO’s future-proof, complete modernization goals. Re-architecture essentially goes beyond the platform to the application database layer, making it possible to change to a relational database and a modern application language ready for newer technologies. If a CIO’s primary objectives are achieving the right functionality, fixing processes and enabling cloud and mobility now, application re-architecture is the right way to go.
DSFG is ready to serve as your trusted IT partner. We offer a proven, 20-year heritage with federal agencies and success with more than 1,350 IT initiatives for over 350 federal government and commercial organizations of every size.
Learn how apps mod can help you with application re-hosting by DSFG. Contact a Dell federal government expert today.