How to Pay Off Mainframe Technical Debt

Yes, You Can Pay Off Technical Debt – Even on Mainframes

If you’re in the enviable position of having paid off your student loans, your house, your credit bills and any other debt you might have, you may think you’re debt-free. But if you run legacy software and hardware, there’s a good chance you suffer from technical debt. Here’s what technical debt means and how to pay it off.

Technical debt and mainframes

Put simply, technical debt is any kind of legacy software or hardware that makes you less than 100 percent efficient but that you can’t easily get rid of.

Technical debt could result from poorly written application code that you haven’t been able to update because it would break dependencies elsewhere in your software stack. It could be an old storage array with low I/O rates that you still use because no one on your staff knows how to set up a new array.

Or it could be a mainframe system that doesn’t support the functionality of modern servers, but on which you still rely because you don’t have the budget to replace it.

In each of these cases, continuing to use the outdated system creates technical debt because it takes you more time or resources to achieve the same results that you could obtain in less time with a more modern or updated solution.

Plus, just as interest causes monetary debt to grow the longer you take to pay it off, your technical debt increases the longer you keep legacy hardware or software in place without updating them.

Download the eBook: New DB Optimization and NW Management Choices

The Solution to Technical Debt

An important thing to understand about technical debt is that replacing your systems from the ground up is not the only way to solve it.

In fact, that approach is not feasible at all. No organization can afford to replace all of its hardware and software the moment it starts to age – and even if it could, you’d still be fighting an unwinnable battle because hardware and software evolve so quickly that an app or server ceases to be the latest and greatest solution available the moment after you’ve set it up.

So, while you should upgrade systems when possible, a healthier and more realistic approach to handling technical debt is to find cost-effective solutions that allow you to keep the systems you have while updating their functionality.

Technical debt and mainframes

Mainframes and Technical Debt

As an illustration of how that can be done, consider mainframes.

While mainframes are by no means dead, they’re no longer the first choice of most organizations when it comes to finding solutions for storing and analyzing data.  If you rely on mainframes today, it’s probably because they were bricked into your infrastructure long ago and replacing them is not manageable.

Related: Breathing New Life into the Mainframe

Yet the fact that legacy mainframes are not on their own, as ideal for today’s workloads as commodity servers does not mean you can’t upgrade your mainframes to make them work better. Using tools like the Big Data integration solutions available from Syncsort, you can equip your mainframes to handle modern workloads. Products like DMX-h allow you to migrate data seamlessly from mainframes to modern analytics environments like Hadoop, where it can be processed as efficiently as it could on the latest, most expensive server.

An approach like this exemplifies the proper solution to technical debt. In the case of mainframes, data integration tools provide a cost-effective solution for eliminating technical debt by modernizing the way you work with data without having to replace all of your infrastructure. Learn more about Syncsort’s mainframe solutions.

Want to learn more about strategies to reduce your mainframe technical debt? Download Syncsort’s new eBook, “5 Strategies for Mainframe Optimization: New DB Optimization and NW Management Choices

Christopher Tozzi

Authored by Christopher Tozzi

Christopher Tozzi has written about emerging technologies for a decade. His latest book, For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution, is forthcoming with MIT Press in July 2017.
1 comment
  1. Hello!

    Thank you for this.

    There are so many facets to being agile in the modern landscape of digital technology it makes my brain swirl!

    For me I am wondering about how to respond to change at the same pace as modern cloud or virtualization solutions. In particular test automation, environments for developers, fast feedback from changes and so much more.

    Agile calls for “individuals and interactions over processes and tools” but it seems to me the MainFrame world is all about the tooling to overcome basic architectural limitations of monolithic architectures.

    What do you think about this?

    Thank you very, very much.

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