Archive for: legacy applications | Stromasys

“We used to have a guy for that…”

In discussions about aging technology, IT managers often state this. While most companies used to have the skillset to maintain all parts of their infrastructure, there’s a hidden and increasing risk. The expertise is gone but those systems and infrastructure still operate within the organization. Not only do they operate, but they play a mission-critical role and are often proprietary and customized to the organization.

Without the skillset, gaps in support within the layers of infrastructure emerge and usually, at the worst time. In 2017, 146 million individuals’ personal information was exposed at Equifax because “the complexity of its legacy system contributed to a failure to patch a critical vulnerability,” wrote Robert Charette in Inside the Hidden World of Legacy IT Systems. Within Equifax, there was a lack of support knowledge about its legacy systems. In other words, the company used to have a guy for that.

To understand the risks in support, it’s important to first understand each layer of the infrastructure, specifically the hardware and the operating systems.

 The hardware layer

Legacy hardware has played an integral component in IT departments for decades (SPARC servers were first introduced in 1986). As they’re now at end-of-life status, they’re at risk of unplanned downtime, increasing maintenance costs, and a growing security risk. Alarmingly, often the skillset within a company to help mitigate those risks is gone.

IT departments need to deal with this unstable layer, and they’re faced with either rewriting the applications in an expensive and time-consuming migration strategy or finding spare parts on eBay to keep the hardware (and its risks) running. Another solution is a “lift and shift” emulation strategy, which will decommission the hardware and shift the legacy applications to a modern platform or the cloud without any modification or recertification to the application. The risk of downtime is eliminated, maintenance costs decrease, and without the dependence on legacy hardware, IT departments can take advantage of new technologies.

The operating system

Operating systems don’t age the same way as hardware, but without knowledgeable troubleshooting and support, they pose an increasing security and stability risk. These systems have ongoing patches and fixes but when it comes to these older, end-of-life OS versions, the original vendor doesn’t provide the patches.

An IT department needs to have the expertise to troubleshoot, resolve issues, and help a company with their security strategy. Finding a support provider (or training your own staff) that understands the challenges the organization faces, specializes in a system’s specific version and then can also implement workarounds and the patches needed is essential.

There are four main areas for patches: 

  • Stability patches: These patches fix a performance issue.
  • Security patch: These are often the most critical to apply under any type of regulatory framework.
  • Kernel patch: Only provided by the vendor, these usually occur with the first year or two of the system being released.
  • Firmware updates: Vendors typically stop upgrading firmware about one to three years from the release date.

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees about what constitutes a patch, and most IT managers believe that if a vendor no longer provides patches, the system must be upgraded. But with the right expertise and support, this is not always the case. Upgrading can often come with a lot of hidden costs, including new storage and migrating the data and metadata. Version locking is one strategy that a proper support vendor would know and continue to keep your environment secure.

It’s important to not wait until an infrastructure layer fails or is exposed but to have the support in place for mission-critical applications. With that proper support, IT departments can keep costs down, their operations running smoothly and the opportunities to take advantage (and reap the benefits) of newer technologies.

For more in-depth information, view our webinar, sponsored by the OATUG, How to close the EOL systems drain and modernize your IT infrastructure


Stromasys support on a lonely Saturday morning

 

At work on a late Friday afternoon, an IT manager at a global company looked forward to a relaxing weekend with his wife. It was going to be sunny and they had plans with good friends. While enjoying a cup of coffee on Saturday morning, his phone rang. He saw it was from the office. His heart sank; it could not be good.  

 

His colleague told him that a Windows server had been shut down yesterday for routine maintenance. However, the mission-critical OpenVMS system, the manager’s responsibility, wouldn’t come back online. At that point in time, the entire Northern European database of customer membership information was not accessible to about 50 agents.

 

The IT manager’s first thought was that it could be the Charon™ emulator by Stromasys. Several years ago, he had aging VAXes with critical applications on them, such as the Northern European system. He had a vendor for hardware support but the service had been unsatisfactory. His counterparts in North America recommended Stromasys’ “lift and shift” software, Charon. Within the North American offices, it proved to be a cost-effective solution to migrate away from legacy hardware. The European manager worked with Stromasys to successfully shift the legacy applications to a Windows server running Charon-VAX emulation. Until that Saturday morning, operations had been running smoothly.  

 

He needed the system back online ASAP, and in a panic, he sent an email to the Stromasys support team. With his past experience of customer service, he didn’t have much hope for help. To his surprise, a Stromasys engineer, Alexandre Souf, replied within an hour with eight other engineers CC’d on the email. 

 

Working with Alex, the manager figured out it wasn’t the Charon emulator and yet, the system was still offline. Alex stayed on the phone with him to troubleshoot the problem and they eventually found that it was a VMS system issue. Alex continued to work with him as he ran the checks to get the system back online.  

 

“It’s a lonely situation to be told on a weekend that a system you’re responsible for, is down,” stated the IT manager. “It was such a relief to get an immediate response from the Stromasys support team, even though the problem was not Charon. Their software is a great solution for legacy hardware and their support makes the product outstanding.” 


Press release: Government IT paralysis can be instantly cured with “lifting and shifting” legacy applications

As over 26 million Americans file for unemployment due to COVID-19, the computer systems processing state unemployment benefits are straining under the unprecedented increase in claims. 40-year old Cobol-based systems need extra capacity and the expertise of engineers who have the know-how to address decades-old servers.

The Charon solutions, by Stromasys, is “lift and shift” software; can be installed remotely and does not require re-authentication or re-certification by users. No changes are made to the applications, users experience the same “look and feel” and agencies can accelerate to full-speed operation, without the reliance on aging hardware.

“We’re here to help. Our solution will dramatically decrease the time it takes to process benefits and hopefully bring everyone some peace of mind during this uncertain time,” stated CEO, John Prot. “We understand state and government dependence on mission-critical programs, and we can quickly deploy and install our software to address the current crisis.”

Within a few days, legacy applications can be migrated on to modern hardware with legacy server emulation and can quickly scale, enabling antiquated systems to run on modern platforms or the cloud. State and government employees can then process claims quickly and efficiently.

More than 7,000 Federal, DOD, State, Municipal and Enterprise users have already implemented Stromasys software to rapidly unclog or cloud-enable legacy applications and servers developed in the 80s, 90s and 2000’s.

Read the full press release here