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SOA mainframe migration issues in the City of Inglewood, CA

Taking legacy applications off the mainframe and updating them with Java or .NET is a tempting idea, but the process may not be as easy as it seems.

Many companies are considering rewriting their legacy applications using more modern programming languages like .NET or Java so they can move them off the mainframe. But this can also create unexpected problems, particularly for mission critical applications. For example, the City of Inglewood, CA has had a 23-year-old IBM mainframe running their emergency services computer aided dispatch system. Although the 3270 terminal application might be considered Spartan by today's standards, the application has run flawlessly over its lifetime. Inglewood's government considered a migration to a newer IBM mainframe, was concerned about the cost.

The city first took a stab at migrating the Cobol application to .NET. The 6-month project ended up taking over 19-months until it became operational. All went well in the beginning, but then a Microsoft .NET Framework update took all police, firefighter and ambulance information systems off-line for eight hours. The city went back to the old 3270 terminal application running on the mainframe and decided to look for a new strategy.

Assistant City Manager and CIO for the City of Inglewood, Michael Falkow, had looked at migrating code to modern servers running Micro Focus Virtual Mainframe server software emulating the old mainframe. This allowed them to run the same legacy application and 3270 terminal client interface at a significantly reduced cost. Falkow explained that on the surface, upgrading their application using .NET sounds great when it works. But in their case, the Windows server was taken off-line during a routine update, and they were not willing to risk another problem like that.

The migration off the 23-year-old mainframe is saving the city $120,000 per year in licensing costs it was paying to IBM. The existing IT staff can now manage the Micro Focus server, which has allowed them to retire at least 2 mainframe specialists, saving the City another $210,000 in costs and benefits, said Falkow.

Reporter's note:The original edition of this story mistakenly identified Michael Falkow. His title is Assistant City Manager and CIO for the City of Inglewood.

Editor's note: The original edition of this story mistakenly identified "Microsoft .NET Framework" as "SQL Server database."

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