We’ve heard the term “digital transformation” used almost to the point of exhaustion in the past couple of years – but it’s not just a lot of hot air: It’s the future.

IDC predicts that digital transformation will attain macroeconomic scale over the next three to four years, changing the way enterprises operate and reshaping the global economy. According to the research company, “By 2020, 50 percent of the Global 2000 will see the majority of their business depend on their ability to create digitally enhanced products, services and experiences.”

To meet the challenges of what IDC calls the “digital transformation economy,” organizations need to modernize their core technologies to meet consumer and staff needs – including the mainframe architectures that provide the very foundation of many businesses these days. Toward that end, some organizations are considering a strategy called "rehosting." But others may be confused on what this term means.

What is Rehosting?

Rehosting is an option whereby existing mainframe applications move unchanged to a modern open system, such as multi-tiered, SQL-based x86 environment, or the cloud.

Each has its own advantages. Rehosting to an x86 system results in lower capital expenditure in the long term: Newer systems result in lower purchase costs and have reduced space, power and cooling requirements over their lifetimes.

Cloud-based architectures, on the other hand, offer flexibility. Not limited by on-site hardware, cloud providers can scale capabilities to match user demand by utilizing enterprise-grade servers. Additionally, operating applications through the cloud opens the door to new services, which can further boost a business’ ability to compete in today’s marketplace.

Why Rehost? Top 10 Reasons

For many businesses, rehosting can be a thoroughly cost-effective way to overhaul mainframe architectures. When performed properly, rehosting can provide many of the benefits of a rewrite, with significantly fewer risks and costs.

It can also act as a beneficial first step to a less complicated – and therefore less risky – source code rewrite. Where mainframes lock a customer into a limited and tightly coupled architecture, the loosely coupled architecture of an open system offers dynamic scalability, workload management and agility.

Safety can also be improved, since existing mainframe security is maintained, and additional safeguards provided by modern SQL databases can now be employed quickly and easily.

Here are 10 reasons an organization might want to look closely at rehosting:

1– It helps fund necessary innovation. Rehosting has been proven to dramatically reduce infrastructure and operating costs. These funds then can be reallocated to innovation – which may include the rewriting of legacy apps.

For example, GE Capital modernized its Portfolio Management System (PMS) and the data with a complete mainframe rehosting solution that moved mainframe applications into a multi-tiered, x86 environment. The modernization took about a year to complete and yielded astonishing results.

By moving the 71 million lines-of-code system moved from an ancient mainframe environment to a modern and open Unix environment, GE Capital’s annual run cost for the PMS system and related applications fell by 66 percent; the time it took for PMS to recover from disaster decreased by 240 percent; and the overall application footprint shrank by 78 percent. While the cost savings were enormous, the most positive result was moving to a platform that integrated easily with the rest of the business and supported growth and innovation.

2 – It can support bimodal or two-speed IT. Bimodal IT is a Gartner concept created to help CIOs understand that their IT estate must support both traditional and agile models of IT delivery in order for them to make informed decisions about infrastructure, processes, people and tools.

Investment in legacy Unix, mainframe and other proprietary systems has dwindled, and the demand for legacy server operating environments will continue to decline. Rehosting allows a bimodal system, providing a fast, flexible foundation to quickly respond to market change and future integration requirements.

3 – It allows a business to exploit the cloud. Rehosting is critical to helping an IT organization extend its modernizing apps to the cloud. Your choice of a rehosting application should offer the option of running it in a cloud.

4 – It’s less risky than rewriting. Re-engineering projects can take years. Rehosting is not only faster, but it also means no changes to the underlying business logic or user interface, with no negative impact on the enterprise. It requires minimal training, and the system operates in exactly the same way.

5 – It increases uptime and reliability. Rehosting give the ability to configure Active, and Active clustering across your infrastructure provides the foundation for the “five nines” of availability in this “always-on” world.

6 – It improves performance and manageability. The ability to dynamically scale your environment based on business demand eliminates the need to always provide resources for peak processing – even though they may only be required for short periods of time – maintaining maximum service and reliability. You pay for what you use, with no impact on the business.

7 – It helps identify system inefficiencies. Through rehosting, GE Capital identified 78 percent of its source code was unused. Rehosting allows you to review all of your legacy code for efficiency and usage patterns.

8 – It enables a business to leverage existing workforce and skillsets. Mainframe experts still exist because so many mission-critical systems in enterprises are still running mainframes. With rehosting, IT departments can leverage their existing mainframe skills as well as the skills of the open systems teams.

9 – It helps increase agility and time to market. According to CGI, apart from vendor lock-in, organizations still dependent on mainframes are confronted by four realities: slow time-to-market; aging skills pools; lack of access to best-in-class software; and high maintenance costs.

These factors mean that enterprises are facing a decreased ability to be agile and quick to market, which in the modern digital economy is fatal.

10 – It allows a business to provide the best customer experience. We live in an always-on world with consumers expecting a highly personalized customer experience, even in the virtual realm. This is one reason that digital transformation is so important for many CIOs: Rehosting allows you to unlock the value of your mainframe apps by exposing them to web services for mobile and digital applications, transforming the customer experience.

A Changing Enterprise Landscape

Many legacy mainframe architectures are unable to live up to the demands of the new digital transformation economy, which can pose serious headaches for businesses looking to remain competitive and agile. Unless they can maximize the applications they use, many companies will lack the performance necessary to take advantage of new initiatives like the Internet of Things and the cloud.

Enterprise organizations benefit when they resist seeing modernization as a “one-off” project where progress and innovation stop at the end, and instead embrace modernization as a cycle. For businesses that want to modernize but are wary of a full rewrite, rehosting provides the platform an organization needs to meet the demands of the new digital economy and ensure its future success.

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Paul Bobak

Paul Bobak

Paul Bobak is vice president of technical field services at TmaxSoft, an enterprise software firm.