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Easily Modernize Applications to Stay Competitive

competitive applications

This is the second of a two-part series on modernization of legacy systems. The specific focus of this article is application modernization tactics that don’t require a complete replacement of the application either by rewrite or replacement by a commercial off-the-shelf package. Read part one.

Since companies maintain an application when business needs change, doesn’t it makes sense to modernize them in the same context? Plan ongoing modernization instead of confronting the risk of a complete application rewrite after years of ignoring impactful technology change. This requires a more strategic approach in planning but important applications merit this level of focus.

It’s useful to discuss modernization by exploring broad areas like user interface and data modernization. In each of these domains, there are many examples worth exploring. Some areas represent undiscovered opportunities like making fuller use of middleware enhancements that are made by IBM and other software suppliers. Many companies supporting applications lack a strong linkage between application development and systems maintenance. Because of this, new releases may get installed without application developers fully realizing the opportunity to make use of new programming language and middleware functionality.

User Interface Modernization

The user interface has changed from monochrome non-programmable displays to web interfaces and now to mobile devices. Many ways have been developed to use long-standing outputs in new ways. Two examples of interface modernization involving outputs originally targeted for 3270 devices include:

  1. The CICS 3270 Bridge, a tool used to web-enable a web-unaware legacy IBM CICS application. This is a smart and supported way to get 3270 applications on the web.
  2. IBM Rational Host Access Transformation Services, which makes it possible to display outputs from CICS applications on a smartphone with no changes required to the existing application. This is a low-risk approach that increases user productivity and satisfaction while enabling the re-use of proven business logic in new mobile applications.

Data Modernization

Over time, file storage has changed from file access using access methods to databases supported by an increasingly diverse set of software and hardware functionality. Replacing master files with database technology makes it possible to immediately plug into advanced capabilities

The experts agree that you shouldn’t embark on a migration like VSAM to DB2 unless you have a business motivation. Many companies have a general rule that important data is kept in databases and not sequential or indexed files. They do this because databases have data dictionaries that make the data easier to use. Also, they do this because they have a strong desire to support ad hoc queries of the data. Ad hoc reporting is easier to do with data in databases, as you don’t need to write programs, just a simple SQL query

Joseph Gulla is the general manager and IT leader of Alazar Press, a publisher of award-winning children’s books. Joe is a frequent contributor to IBM Destination z (the community where all things mainframe converge) and writes weekly for the IT Trendz blog where he explores a wide range of topics that interconnect with IBM Z.

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