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December 9, 2020

Digital transformation, in its truest sense, involves a complete upheaval of outdated technological aspects in business. It focuses on leveraging digital technologies to maximize customer value. As the world gravitates towards digitalization, organizations are faced with the critical decision of whether to swim with the tide or against it. Organizations that are still dependent on their outdated legacy systems for day-to-day operations need to weigh the total cost of ownership and opportunity costs closely, as opposed to the tangible benefits of modernization, and then make a rational decision. Digital transformation endeavors to meet the business demands of working with enormous data volumes securely and efficiently, leading to customer satisfaction, strengthened business partnerships and a decisive competitive advantage.

Digital Transformation in the Core Banking Sector

Most organizations in the financial, telecommunication and administrative domains still use the resilient and robust COBOL in their mainframe systems for batch processing. Traditionally, banks rely on batch processing for carrying out high-volume transactional activities such as money transfers, payments, deposits, withdrawals, generation of account statements and mailing of bills. This bulk processing of similar, periodic jobs under minimal supervision reduces operating costs. However, it also compels customers to forgo their access to real-time information. With pervasive and affordable high-speed internet connectivity, customers expect instantaneous access to their account information and highly personalized digital engagement from their banks. In order to accommodate these ever-growing customer needs and make use of the latest, highly secure modern infrastructure, banks are undertaking a digital transformation of their core banking system. This journey invariably begins with legacy modernization, since mainframe systems are unquestionably incompatible with modern technologies.

Challenges and Complexities of Modernization

To ensure deft transformation, organizations need to initiate the process by identifying challenges and complexities. Let us consider the commonly performed legacy migration from COBOL to Java to comprehend the wide array of challenges that arise with modernization:

  • COBOL has approximately 30 datatypes, each of which can be further converted into any of these 30 datatypes; bringing the total combinations to around 900. Considering the fact that data conversion can happen for varying data lengths, the possible combinations can cross several thousands, and border on the impossible.

  • Data conversion in COBOL can be executed with a simple ‘MOVE’ function; while Java makes use of over 100 variations of getters and setters for the same purpose. Additional COBOL parameters complicate the process further.

  • COBOL utilizes a Group item data structure that maintains several types of data in a sequential order. As there is no straightforward equivalent group structure in Java, it is necessary to maintain offset information records that need to be retrieved and updated for Java data elements.

  • Static analysis and conversion of COBOL jump statements are extremely complex, as these are dynamically determined based on the program flow.

In addition to these challenges associated with syntactical and structural variations between the two coding languages, there are several other issues related to the environment, source code versions and data formats, which hinder performance efficiency.

Solution Approach

Successful implementation of application modernization can be achieved when organizations find the right tools to facilitate a highly automated transformation. This has to be combined with the right deployment team that has the expertise to steer through the process, if a need for manual arbitration arises. The ideal product-based approach should take into account the significance of retaining application functionality, while handling the following:

  • Modernizing the technology and platform

  • Converting monolithic programs to layered architecture

  • Establishing a logging facility to track, debug, and display error logs

  • Ensuring that the code is compliant with Sonar basic rule set and compatible with different deployment environments

This approach can accomplish almost 90% automation, reducing the risk of human errors drastically. It also lowers transformation costs by 50% compared with manual implementation.

The Hidden Benefits and Opportunities

Organizations typically embark upon application modernization to overcome technological impediments posed by legacy systems and the challenge of diminishing resources with legacy skillsets. However, modernization also brings in a host of other benefits and opportunities, such as:

  • Upgrading of the legacy technical landscape to cloud-ready architecture enables integration of contemporary tools and web services for dynamic business requirements

  • Reduction in costs due to migration from legacy systems paves way for investments in projects that helps businesses to achieve their maximum potential

  • Increase in performance efficiency, flexibility, maintainability, and scalability achieved through layered architecture facilitates long-term modernization initiatives

  • Integration of modern applications offers customers real-time access to information, while maintaining a high standard of security for business transactions

A strategic approach towards modernization of legacy systems will certainly yield benefits that far outweigh the challenges involved

Write to us at mastercraft.sales@tcs.com to kick off your application modernization journey.

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Karthick Periyasamy is a Technical Lead with the TCS MasterCraftTM TransformPlus team in the Components Engineering Group (CEG) at TCS. He has over 10 years of experience in engineering and deployment of MasterCraft TransformPlus and has led the deployment of the product in various large transformation engagements. His primary focus is on deployment and delivery of the product in projects and also on supporting marketing and pre-sales.

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