The Essentials Series: Cloud-Enabling Legacy and Mainframe Applications

by Don Jones


For all of the hype surrounding it, cloud computing is a real thing and it's here to stay. In fact, today's businesses are increasingly called upon to expose business data in cloud-centric ways: On mobile devices, as Web services to internal and external consumers, and more. Exposing legacy data comes with significant challenges and risks, and businesses are justifiably cautious in doing so. New technologies and techniques are available that give businesses more control, less risk, and lower costs when it comes to integrating legacy application data with the cloud, and in The Essentials Series: Cloud-Enabling Legacy and Mainframe Applications, author and analyst Don Jones explores these new options.


Article 1: Why Your Legacy Application Data Needs to Be Connected to the Cloud

An airline wants to cooperate with a credit card company's rewards program, enabling credit card rewards points to be transferred to the airline's frequent flier program. That program is managed by a mainframe‐based application.

A manufacturing firm wants to outsource their customer relationship management (CRM) software to a software‐as‐a‐service (SaaS) provider but needs to provide real‐time data from their mainframe‐based inventory and product control systems.

A retailer wants to implement a new distribution center product‐shipment system but needs to interface that system to their mainframe‐based inventory control application.

It's happening more and more: Companies in a variety of industries want to do more with their business. They don't want their mainframe system to hold them back, but they're not interested in replacing the mainframe, which in most cases does a great job of doing what it was designed to do. They just want to use that data in more places, giving themselves more business agility. In more and more of these cases, they want that mainframe data to be used in "the cloud."

Article 2: Connecting Legacy Application Data to the Cloud: Common Mistakes and Misconceptions

You've decided that you need to connect your mainframe data to the cloud. The previous article in this series outlined several reasons why you might want to do so, and now you're ready to find out how. In this article, we'll explore common, traditional approaches—and their downsides. We'll also look at strategic, tactical, and technical mistakes that companies make when heading down this path so that you can avoid them in your own organization.

Legacy Apps: Expensive, Mission‐Critical, and Change‐Averse

First, let's acknowledge that extending a mainframe application in any way can be a frightening proposition. These applications simply aren't designed for extensibility. In some cases, business logic is contained entirely within text‐based user interfaces, making it difficult to automate data entry and retrieval without bypassing all of that business logic.

Mainframe applications typically sit right at the heart of the business. They're one of the most mission‐critical aspects of the business' technology infrastructure, running the applications that make the business work. Messing with that kind of critical component is extremely risky: One wrong move, and you're literally out of business.

Article 3: Connect Your Legacy Data to the Cloud – With Less Risk, Time, and Cost

In the previous two articles in this series, we've looked at why companies might want to cloud-enable their mainframe-based data contained in legacy applications, and we've looked at some of the more common, traditional approaches to doing so—and their downsides. In this article, we'll look at newer techniques and technologies that seek to achieve the most important business goals. Specifically, we want an approach that

  • can be implemented quickly, ideally for a single project.
  • can be extended at any time to support additional projects—without having to worry about what those might be up-front.
  • is less expensive than modifying the mainframe application directly.
  • ideally, lives off of the mainframe. This approach minimizes or eliminates the need for executive-level commitment, and reduces the chance for negative business and performance impact.