As COVID-19 continues to ravage businesses across the globe, companies are in need of ways to maintain their business excellence and efficiency while minimizing their operational costs with limited resources. Those that rely on legacy mainframes are hit the hardest, with a recent study finding that as many as one in 10 organizations reported experiencing slowdowns or downtime due to the pandemic.
Despite these challenges, many companies still spend a majority of their IT budgets on maintaining outdated systems, which can be costly and add minimal business value. Legacy mainframes also often require significant power and other resources to maintain their function, which can have a detrimental environmental impact.
As a result, to improve their carbon footprint, cut costs and maintain business value, companies should pursue system modernization projects in order to address any inefficiencies or challenges within their existing systems — and simultaneously set the stage for more universally eco-friendly business practices down the road.
Going Green to Save Green
IT departments are cost centers for many companies. Mainframes are typically contained in private data centers that utilize power, air conditioning, staff, lights and more, resulting in much higher price tags required for everyday use. Data centers alone are projected to account for 3.2 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
For industries, like financial services, the scale of procedural and monolithic mainframe applications can require significantly more compute power than those running in cloud environments. This is because, traditionally, many companies rely on mainframes, which charge their users by MIPS, or millions of instructions per second, used. As businesses become more dispersed, numerous users access these systems from countless sources at any given moment — not only running up the cost of use for the mainframe, but also igniting a linear increase in the costs associated with the energy required to power these technologies.
However, by modernizing to an open-source cloud environment, companies are better positioned to scale horizontally, meet increased demand and reduce maintenance and operational costs. Cloud architectures are more energy efficient in addition to their enhanced storage capabilities and, as a result, can house various workloads with only a fraction of the energy consumption of traditional data centers. This allows numerous organizations to tap into available, shared resources of public cloud environments to enhance their business capabilities while reducing their use of natural resources. For instance, when it upgraded its systems in 2011, the Bank of New Zealand reduced its power consumption by 38 percent.
To achieve similar levels of energy efficiency (and thus cost reduction), companies should determine a targeted sustainable modernization approach.
Planting Seeds of Sustainability
There is no blanket approach to modernization suitable for all organizations. Rather, companies must select a specific process that makes the most sense for them and should consider the following:
- Business Goals: What is the goal of modernization? Is it improving business agility and attracting new customers? Is it attracting new tech talent? Or is it cutting the company’s environmental impact? By mapping out what they want to achieve, companies are better positioned to find success because it helps focus their efforts and identify the specific strategies that will provide them with the greatest business value overall.
- Cost: While they can be viewed as a short-term expense, modernization efforts aren’t cheap. But these investments are cheaper than what it costs to maintain outdated technologies. As a result, organizations must take a detailed look at their IT budgets to identify the best approach and potential return on investment (ROI) of pursuing these projects.
- Timeline: In addition to a high cost, modernization projects take time. While they don’t necessarily require all systems to be taken offline, these projects won’t be completed in days or weeks, so it’s essential that businesses determine a timeline that suits their unique needs, challenges and deadlines.
Establishing a Strategy
Granted, not every modernization project requires a full override or severance from legacy mainframes. There are a variety of modernization approaches suitable for various business objectives and budgets. These include:
- System Replacement: Typically reserved as a last resort, this approach involves organizations disposing of their mainframe, fully deactivating its applications and ultimately its vital legacy knowledge and replacing it with an off-the-shelf solution from a third-party provider. While this grants them the opportunity to begin with a clean slate, this strategy is especially costly and significantly reduces a company’s opportunity to customize it accordingly.
- Rehosting: By pursuing rehosting, IT experts help an organization to do away with their mainframes in their entirety. Through this strategy, the legacy system’s core functions and procedural codebases are kept in their current form, but migrated to a newer, more suitable computing environment for today’s business demands.
- Rewriting: In some cases, businesses elect to pursue rewriting, thus tapping into a team of experienced developers to manually recreate the legacy system in a more modern environment. However, this process requires developers to begin entirely from scratch — and while this eliminates the risk of downtime, this process is time-consuming, risky for successfully maintaining core functions of the legacy system and the costliest modernization strategy.
- Automated Refactoring: This strategy enlists a team of experts to conduct a deep, automated assessment of an organization’s existing systems, utilizing specialized and automated tools in order to translate procedural codebases to object-oriented equivalents. This approach helps companies to retain essential legacy knowledge by translating legacy systems into much more modern code languages like Java or C#. It can also be completed in stages, on an ongoing basis, and is typically more cost-effective. With these automated, real-time updates to their systems, companies can invest in their cloud-ready approach and continually improve their internal systems without interruptions for customers — and ensure any issues are addressed long before they cause challenges to business function.
Enabling a Greener Business Environment
Sustainability is in demand, with calls for greener business initiatives radiating from every corner of the globe. Luckily, by modernizing the most urgent aspects of their legacy systems, companies will be able to significantly reduce their carbon footprints by minimizing the amount of power required to fuel these technologies. What’s more, pursuing these sustainability efforts can benefit the planet as well as a businesses’ bottom line — ultimately driving operational efficiency, revenue and an eco-friendly business environment.