Swedish Transport Agency is modernizing its mainframe environment

Net 1/2016,  2016-01-29

Fujitsu Sweden is currently implementing IT environment modernization with the Swedish Transport Agency. This is one of the largest modernization projects in Europe. The project is valued at approximately 6,2 million euros.

The costs of maintaining a mainframe environment grow hand in hand with its age. Also, finding the right expertise gets increasingly difficult, and consequently, upgrading the system gets increasingly expensive and complex. Eventually the only way out is to find alternative solutions.

”The IT management of the Swedish Transport Agency woke up to the fact in a situation where they would soon have no support or expertise available. The system would swallow up more money by the day. They had only one option left: modernization,” says project manager Anna Larsson from Fujitsu Sweden.

In this project, the Transport Agency’s old Unisys 2200 mainframe environment and its LINC/EAE, COBOL, and Assembler based applications will be modernized to .Net-based browser applications and batch jobs. The system is critical, as it is used, among other things, in running the processes related to vehicle registrations and driver’s licenses.

Transportstyrelsen

The modernization project implemented by Fujitsu was kicked off in March 2015 and it is expected to run until late 2016. In the project Fujitsu is partnering with Asysco, who provides tools and services for the migration of the mainframe applications to Windows .NET platform.

”The project is making good progress. Using automated migration tools, the applications have already been migrated to the new platform, and we have been able to run performance tests and other sorts of tests since last fall. Batch jobs are complex chains where information, reports and updates are transferred from one system to another. In many cases, batch jobs are interdependent, which makes testing quite challenging. In fact, comprehensive automated regression and performance testing at both the online and batch job end are an absolute prerequisite for a successful migration project,” says lead architect Antti Kytömäki of Fujitsu.

”It is the Transport Agency’s wish that the testing be done thoroughly and performance be ensured. With a lot of external users, the system runs millions of transactions every day. Testing is also required by interfaces to the systems of the police, tax authority and other external parties,” Kytömäki says.

Standardized environment brings cost-savings

The project being everything but simple, intensive collaboration with the customer is an absolute must in order to succeed.

”Migration is not something you could just do on behalf of the customer and deliver the results under their noses. The customer must be given a chance to learn how to use their new systems, after all, they are the experts of the previous system. In a good migration project, the customer company arranges its personnel time to sit down with us to discuss the upcoming transformation,” Anna Larsson says.

It is easy to get jammed in a mainframe environment, thinking that migration would entail an insurmountable amount of risks and labor. In fact, migrating to a modern platform brings tons of benefits, one of the greatest of which is the cost-savings.

”A standardized environment will be significantly cheaper. Moreover, the organization is no longer dependent on certain suppliers, and information exchange is more efficient with a more open and integrable platform. Also, it is easier to find the right expertise. Knowledge accumulates during the migration project for future needs, and it is better documented,” Anna Larsson lists.

The difficulty of setting requirements

According to Anna Larsson, predefining requirements for a legacy modernization project is difficult. In many cases the customer does not have adequate knowledge of the existing system, and in these circumstances, openness is called for in order to bring the project home successfully.

”A mainframe system is like basement storage with stuff piling up in it over the years. You may have occasionally had an urge to clear it, but soon you have run out of steam, managing to only clear the boxes on top. Eventually you no longer know what you have in the boxes in the bottom,” Larsson says.

One of the prerequisites for success is to work assiduously and do it with someone who has done it before – someone who is capable of tackling the surprises found in the bottom boxes, too.
Another important factor is a well-oiled migration process. The Swedish Transport Agency uses the so-called automatic migration. It helps you avoid many pitfalls, such as the one where you are forced to re-write code, of which you do not know what it does and whether you will ever use it.

More than migration

A modernization project equips the customer with some useful tools, such as the opportunity to review the target environment for unnecessary programs and files, and to remove them. Also, automated tests are beneficial in many ways.

”A modernization project is much more than just system migration. Even though the functionality and structure of the system remain unchanged, everything will be modernized, all the way from the architecture and development environment to integrations. New, automated processes will be provided for testing, building and application lifecycle management. At that point, what counts is choosing the best route. And the earlier you embark on a migration project, the easier it will be,” Anna Larsson points out.

 The keys to successful modernization

  • Over the years you may come to a point when there is no longer expertise available for the application you are using.  With time the situation only gets worse, as the rest of the experts retire.

  • For a modernization project you need key persons with the best possible knowledge of the system. This is challenging, as the day-to-day business may often be run by the same people.

  • For the duration of the modernization project, the system has to be kept adequately stable so as to avoid having to make major changes in a later phase of the process, and to avoid becoming tempted to do non-necessary changes in connection with the modernization.

  • Decisions relating to architecture and technologies, for example, must be taken right at the early stages of the project, which affect the entire project organization. In a sense, the project pushes the entire organization ahead of itself, forcing it in some cases to make more extensive transformations than what the actual project would require.

  • Any surprises come across along the way must be tackled (the bottom boxes in the basement storage the existence of which you had forgotten ages ago). What you need is proven processes and practices that work even when it is impossible to define a specific scope for the project before it starts.

These tips were listed by project manager Anna Larsson and lead architect Antti Kytömäki from Fujitsu.

Modernization gives a new life to an old application

Our application modernization service is designed for the migration of the customers’ aged but business-critical applications to a new, modern platform. Fujitsu’s global Application Modernization service offers a clear-cut and cost-efficient solution for all types of modernization. Implementing application modernization as a standardized service brings customers tangible benefits.

Fujitsu has defined eight areas of expertise, covering several modernization tools and technology platforms. These include the migration and modernization of Cobol- and PL/1-based applications to .NET platform, and the migration of Visual Basic applications to .NET or J2EE applications.

Applications can be migrated from a mainframe computer to a Microsoft platform either to a data center or, for example, to Microsoft Azure cloud service. Using modernization tools, most of the technologically outdated applications can be given a new life as Java or .NET applications. Such applications include, Oracle Forms, Centura, Delphi and RPG, to name a few.

For further information please contact: Mikael.Valtonen (at) fi.fujitsu.com or Antti.Kytomaki (at) fi.fujitsu.com

More Information
info@fi.fujitsu.com

Published in the Net Magazine 1/2016,  2016-01-29

Facebook  Twitter  Google  LinkedIn

Fujitsu Net-site uses cookies, so that we can improve the user experience and analyze traffic. We ask you to familiarize yourself with our Privacy Policy, which is available here.