Application modernization moves toward business transformation: Looking to 2012

In the coming year the tenor of application modernization efforts may change, as overall business transformation takes on greater importance.

As we come to a new year, we come to budgeting and portfolio analysis time for many IT leaders. It is time for a look at mainframe legacy issues that are usually overlooked in the day-to-day running of a technology portfolio. In the coming year the tenor of application modernization efforts may change, as overall business transformation takes on greater importance. There is little question that the on-going ''Webification'' of business is a factor to consider when reviewing your software assets.

While replacing skilled Cobol team members is an issue, it is no longer the most striking issue for the legacy app today. The bigger problem is that, in relation to new Web applications, the legacy platform seems rigid and hard to change. Here are some tips from the pages of SearchSOA.com.

Independent consultant William Ulrich, president of Tactical Strategy Group, Inc. and co-author (with Phillip Newcomb) of ''Information Systems Transformation: Architecture-Driven Modernization Case Studies,'' tells us to look at the portfolio to see if there is high redundancy and inconsistency between systems. He says to be sure to view the overall portfolio from a planning perspective so that you can figure out how to ''piece-meal it,'' or pare it down in a rational way. Looking from a high-level, business-centric point of view is important. “Transformation of your application and architectures is not really just one thing, it can be many kinds of things depending on what you want to accomplish and how innovative you are and how well you've done your job at business-IT mapping,’’ Ulrich tells us in ''Routes to modernization.'' Look at the customer view, he advises, noting that a shift to a customer-centric view of the business is major push of today's successful businesses.

As you look for targets for updating, Forrester Analyst Phil Murphy emphasized that the language (Cobol, C, Java) does not always provide a guide to whether you have a good or poor candidate application for transformation. ''Don’t look just at the language,'' he told SearchSOA.com. Instead, study the complexity of the application, he said. The more monolithic in composition, the harder the application is to move, he said. All Cobol applications are not monolithic. Neither are all Java applications non-monolithic, he advises.  To properly integrate legacy systems and mainframe applications, consider:  one) how the legacy application was written; two) how it scales; and, three) what capabilities you want to add by integrating it with other systems. Read more in ''Monolithic applications present monumental challenges.''

At the end of the day, as at the end of the year, the role of SOA is as enabler. It is the best way to connect the new-fangled Web and the tried-and-trued mainframe. But technology managers have to approach their portfolio management in a way that they can communicate to upper management. That means talking the business talk while doing the SOA walk. ''SOA can be helpful for modernizing a mainframe environment, but if the modernization doesn’t provide a business value that is visible to the business, it won’t be getting funded,'' reminds Forrester's Murphy. We invite all interested to learn more about the SOA take on application modernization by visiting the new ''SearchSOA.com Interactive Classroom on Application Modernization Strategy.'' Registration is required.

This was first published in December 2011

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