By Andy Scott, Client Director, Jumar Solutions
The minute a technology gets labelled ‘legacy’ (rightly or wrongly), it can begin to inherit a stigma that it is old, outdated, unattractive to young IT specialists and less relevant than its more modern-day counterparts. We’ve been working with CA Gen (also known as COOL:Gen, AllFusion Gen, Advantage:Gen and IEF Composer) since the late 1980s – a time when in the UK, a pint of beer cost less than one pound , and in the USA, a gallon of petrol cost slightly less than a dollar . For most of the intervening period, the ‘legacy’ label has been firmly attached, but in our experience, the stigma of being out of touch with reality could not be further from the truth.
In this blog, we look at one particular aspect of CA Gen which should be enough to convince even the most hardened of sceptics that this so-called legacy technology still provides considerable flexibility – and with that, comes significant cost savings.
Consider the traditional legacy situation of CA Gen applications running on a mainframe – with the high licensing and operational costs associated with that mainframe environment. Most CA Gen organisations that are using the mainframe will have probably considered the option of moving to a less expensive hardware architecture, whilst retaining CA Gen and the significant investment already made into the CA Gen applications that are supporting the business.
Exploiting the opportunities that modern mid-range platforms offer, with comparatively (much) lower associated cost seems to be an obvious attractive prospect, however for many mainframe using organisations migrating from the mainframe is, of course, technically challenging. The flip-side is the potential cost saving, with some hardware manufacturers estimating cost reductions in exceptional cases reaching as high as 70-80% over that of its mainframe counterpart – with similar, or even better, performance.
The challenge of replatforming is, however, considerably less difficult if CA Gen has been used to design, develop and generate the applications. With everything already defined within the model-based development environment, the code can be easily be generated into other target platforms just by switching the generation options. Of course, there are difficulties when it comes to objects outside CA Gen such as External Action Blocks (EABs) – but these can be overcome relatively easily and are definitely not a showstopper. We quash any fears over that later in the blog.
Had the code been manually created and generated, then the task of re-platforming it could be huge and highly labour-intensive (unless it is to be ported to another platform using the same development language (potentially with support from 3rd party solutions such as those provided by Micro Focus)). But, with CA Gen, you can deliver the same application functionality – on an alternative platform – with much lower ongoing costs of ownership. Coupled with this, CA Gen is one of only a few CASE tools to have this flexibility, allowing 100% of the model content to be ported across automatically.
This trend is something we’re seeing more and more of as organisations look to drive down operational costs. We’re working with a number of large CA Gen organisations who have identified the potential savings to be realised by replatforming, and who have many application models within their CA Gen portfolio. Instead of generating COBOL/DB2 (CICS and/or IMS) into their mainframe environment, we have worked with them to generate C or Java into their platform, using CA Gen’s ability to package the code into a load module which can then be generated for execution on that new lower-cost platform. This exercise, as you would expect includes all the necessary elements of the solution; the business requirements, action diagrams, business rules, database accesses and user interfaces. CA Gen also makes light work of the new middleware challenges and complexities.
The only noticeable difference is that the application portfolio is now running on a platform which is cheaper and which does not necessarily have any negative impact on performance for that reduced cost. It’s quite possible that performance can be improved, but behind the scenes, the code has been generated in C or Java, for example, using Tuxedo middleware with data in an Oracle database rather than DB2.
Earlier, we mentioned the issue of EABs (and other external objects required to deliver the solution such as batch job JCL) – and the difficulties they may cause. This user-defined code, written outside CA Gen and specific to the target environment, requires specialist treatment, and organisations considering a replatforming exercise may be, understandably, put off by having to deal with, potentially, a large volume of work associated with the migration / rewrite of these EABs.
The solution is not as difficult as some may think. Jumar has automation tool support which will help to accelerate the re-write of the external logic, for example from COBOL to Java, or from COBOL to C.
By using our highly-automated approach, development time is greatly accelerated, and it opens up an opportunity to carry out further improvement initiatives in conjunction with the replatforming – for example, removing model corruptions, cleaning up models (e.g. to remove unused or redundant objects), the opportunity to improve the architecture of procedures, and other improvement tasks which add value and could prove highly beneficial to future maintenance.
This ability to switch generation options targeting alternative hardware and software platforms goes to demonstrate one of CA Gen’s biggest strengths – its platform independence. It is because of this that applications written, by programmers drinking 95p beer and driving for a dollar a gallon, are still of considerable value today but ported to more modern and cost-effective platforms. There aren’t many legacy systems which let you ride these wave of technology change with such comparative ease.
If you are planning, or have even started, a replatforming exercise in which CA Gen is involved, please feel free to drop us a line to discuss the options available in terms of automation, best practice, dealing with external objects, the potential for further modernisation, or just to find out more about our experiences. We’ve gone through this process with our customers many times, and we are confident that we can add value to your re-platforming initiative and can help you realise those significant cost and time savings.
For more information, please contact Andy or any member of the team on +44 121 788 4550 or drop us a line.