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Optimize Your Mainframe to Eliminate Technical Debt

If you’re like 44 percent of Americans, you have mortgage debt. And if you are like most companies with complex IT infrastructures, which include a mix of mainframes and smaller systems, you have technical debt.

Minimizing the impact of this debt in a smart way is tough. But it is possible. This article explains how you can pay down your technical debt, just as you would minimize the burden of your mortgage debt.

The technical debt analogy

Let’s start by defining what technical debt means and how the analogy relates to the real-life debt associated with a mortgage.

Simply put, technical debt is what happens when parts of your hardware or software perform sub-optimally. In some cases, the lack of optimization results from a programmer’s decision to take shortcuts, which may save them time and effort in the near-term but lead to a heavier operational load or more complex management requirements in the long run.

Technical debt can also result from a failure to keep your technology up to date. Just as you’d be accumulating unnecessary financial debt if you don’t refinance your mortgage when rates drop, you’ll build technical debt by sticking with older hardware and software. Even if the systems you have in place were at one time efficient, the extra work required to keep using them when they are past their prime means you are paying more – in terms of time and staff costs – to do the same thing. That extra cost is a form of debt.

In this respect, technical debt is like mortgage debt in that it forces you to pay interest – in the form of lost resources – in order to use your systems, just as a mortgage requires you to pay interest to a bank every month in order to keep living in your house.

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Minimizing debt

How do you minimize the impact of debt? If you have a mortgage, you have three potential options. They include:

  1. Sell your house and rent. This will eliminate your mortgage debt, but it will be more expensive in the long run because no portion of your monthly housing payment will come back to you in the form of equity on a property you own.
  2. Sell your house and buy a new house without a mortgage. This is great if you are in the enviable position of being able to afford to buy a house outright without compromising on what you want. But most people aren’t so lucky.
  3. Refinance your mortgage in order to minimize the costs of your debt. This is the most cost-effective and realistic option for most people with a lot of mortgage debt. If you can refinance at a lower interest rate, the impact of your debt will be minimized.

A similar set of options is available if you want to pay down the technical debt associated with your mainframe. Consider the following possibilities:

  1. Abandon your mainframe and move its operations to the cloud. This is analogous to selling your house and renting. It’s a quick and easy solution, but over the long term, it will cost you more to rent infrastructure in the cloud than to own your own.
  2. Replace all of your infrastructure. Like buying a house outright, this is great if you can afford it. But rebuilding an entire infrastructure is not feasible for most organizations because it costs too much.
  3. Optimize your mainframe’s performance. Take advantage of tools that help to efficiently integrate the mainframe with the rest of your infrastructure.

That last strategy is the best option for most organizations. Like a home mortgage refinance, it will minimize debt in a way that the average organization can afford.

Goodbye, mainframe debt

So, how do you go about “refinancing” your technical debt by optimizing your mainframe system? The exact answer will vary from organization to organization, of course. But in general, implementing the following optimizations will help you get your technical debt close to zero:

  • Optimize your network. No matter how well the rest of your infrastructure performs, a slow or insecure network will constantly undercut the efficiency of your operations. On a mainframe, you can solve that challenge using a product like Zen.
  • Make computing faster. Your mainframes may not be as new as other parts of your infrastructure, but that does not mean they have to run slowly. Eliminate this source of technical debt with ZPSaver Suite, which will save loads of CPU time.
  • Maximize visibility and monitoring. If you can’t understand your mainframes, you can’t manage them efficiently. Ironstream solves that problem by allowing you to monitor and analyze the large volumes of machine data generated by your systems through Splunk.
  • Make your mainframes agile. If you’re forced to use sub-optimal technologies on your mainframe because you can’t integrate easily with the alternatives, it’s time to gain the agility to use whichever product or service best meets your needs. Tools like DL/2 and VS/2 enable this agility by streamlining data migration.

Solutions like these may require a small initial investment of time and money – just as refinancing a mortgage usually entails some up-front costs. In the long run, however, organizations that minimize their technical debt in these ways will enjoy much better performance. They’ll save time and money, while still retaining full control over their mainframe systems.

The tools mentioned above represent only a small subset of Syncsort’s solutions for making mainframes more efficient and solving technical debt. For more information, see the complete selection of Syncsort’s mainframe products.

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