Legacy Modernization and Output Management
In recent years, much press has been devoted to the topic of "legacy system modernization." Yet the very definition of this term reflects the motivations and prejudices of those doing the writing. Depending on whom you ask, modernization involves "re-hosting" existing application code on less costly hardware platforms, rewriting/replacing select modules within an existing suite, or something completely different.
Documents are some of the most direct links between information systems and the stakeholders they support. Too often, however, modernization projects fail to anticipate the impact of system changes on document-related business processes. Regardless of which modernization strategy you choose, it makes sense to think about your post-implementation business document needs before the changes start.
Peeling Back Unnecessary Costs
More than two decades after the projected demise of the mainframe, experts calculate that there are between 200 and 500 billion lines of COBOL code still driving 80% of the world’s business transactions. According to a 2009 article in CIO magazine, more than 200 times as many COBOL transactions as Google searches take place on a daily basis.
Companies are understandably hesitant to walk away from such large investments in existing code. Like peeling an apple or potato, modernization takes a light touch. The goal is to remove just enough of the undesirable parts – costly operating systems, inflexible databases, etc. – without cutting into the areas that hold valuable business rules and logic.
Application modernization tools and services seek to preserve these valuable business assets by re-hosting them in a service oriented architecture (SOA) environment. Time-tested applications can run on less expensive platforms where they are maintained and enhanced by a younger generation of workers more proficient in Java, SOAP, and C# than JCL, COBOL and CICS.
Don’t Forget the Output
A major benefit of SOA enablement is that mission critical legacy applications – formerly isolated on a monolithic platform – can be more fully integrated with modern custom and packaged systems. These include output and content management solutions like LRS Enterprise Output Server software. Unfortunately, the question "how will we print and view documents in the new environment?" is usually not asked until late in the migration process.
Establishing a central point of control for output is essential when porting IBM mainframe applications to the open systems world. For one thing, mainframe applications typically depend on the Job Execution System (JES) spool when routing output to printers — a facility missing in other operating systems. They may also rely on mainframe-specific networks, printers, or channel links for proper document formatting. Failure to account for such differences complicates the overall modernization effort and can lead to unanticipated project delays.
At the heart of the LRS Enterprise Output Server is a robust, platform-independent print spooling mechanism designed as a functional replacement for the mainframe JES spool. The capabilities of the solution, combined with the ability to communicate with LRS software running on a legacy system, can ease the process of platform migration.
Everything New is Old Again?
The driving force for most legacy modernization projects can be summed up in just two words: inflexibility and expense. Both arise from the proprietary nature of legacy computing platforms which, though reliable and scalable, were not designed to let customers easily move applications with their changing needs.
In order to avoid creating tomorrow’s legacy systems today, project teams need to "build in" flexibility from the earliest stages of the application lifecycle. When it comes to application output, this means avoiding proprietary data streams in favor of widely-supported industry standards (e.g., PCL, PostScript, PDF). In cases where this is impossible or unfeasible, LRS solutions bridge the gap with flexible transform modules that help customers convert output to any required format. For more information, please read the Solution Spotlight article later in this issue.
LRS software takes full advantage of industry standards for network protocols, output devices, and security. Companies that embrace standards like SNMP, SOAP/XML, PJL, POSIX, and PAM can use the LRS Enterprise Output Server to fully exploit the capabilities of their output devices well into the future. While there is no such thing as a completely "future proof" environment, an open standards-based approach can help keep today’s systems from becoming obsolete as future technologies emerge.
With over thirty years of experience in the field of output management, LRS understands where legacy environments came from, how they are changing, and where they are headed. Together with our application modernization partners, LRS can help customers get the most from both their existing systems and those yet to come.