Feb 11 2010

Moving from the Mainframe: Legacy Cobol in the Cloud

Application modernization provides practical steps toward cloud computing.

There’s a lot of interest in cloud computing among government IT organizations these days. Because of obvious benefits such as cost savings, efficiency and accessibility, the Obama administration continues to promote the implementation of cloud computing, with the promise of making available the necessary resources through the recent launch of Apps.gov.

Despite the benefits, many agencies are hesitant to turn to the cloud because of security risks and concerns. Further, agencies operating mission-critical applications that rely on Cobol feel tied to the mainframe. The good news is that Cobol-based government organizations looking to realize the benefits of cloud computing can make practical progress toward leveraging these benefits without jumping straight into the cloud — historical applications and all. This approach also enables organizations to move swiftly to the cloud if desired.

Many government agencies still rely on Cobol for mission-critical applications and struggle with the challenge of how to integrate this historical programming language with modern technologies. Application modernization lets government agencies operate mainframe applications, such as those written in Cobol, in a web environment, ultimately enabling web compatibility with minimal risk and minimal budget impact.

A compelling alternative to rewriting or replacing the applications, modernization fosters communications between historical systems and contemporary solutions, while preserving the unique value encompassed in existing systems. Deployable in less than two months, modernization also provides greater flexibility, enabling rapid response to changes in processes as needed, from implementing new security measures along our nation’s borders to responding quickly to natural disasters.

Modernization solutions not only enable agencies to transition into the cloud, but they can now do it at their own pace. Concerned about security risks? Modernization enables a step-by-step approach for cautious agencies.

Practical steps toward the cloud enable agencies to leverage the same benefits, without making the full commitment. Transitioning to a private cloud is one option — providing the same web benefits from within the boundary of an agency’s own firewall. A private cloud lets agencies leverage benefits such as pay-as-you-go licensing and elasticity — from within their own data centers, at their own pace.

Another option would be to move a single application into the web environment; the application can be transitioned to a different operating environment while the agency maintains full control of the data.

As cloud computing becomes an essential tool for government, legacy systems do not need to act as barriers for agencies’ mainframe-based applications. Implementing modernization solutions lets agencies to leverage the benefits of modern technologies, such as cloud computing — ultimately providing those entrusted with the security of our nation greater accessibility to critical information at a moment’s notice.