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Migration Math – You can’t afford to ignore it

Mathematics They say that “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” The trouble is that sometimes things are working ‘just fine’, meanwhile the competition has jumped up the evolutionary ladder to take advantage of efficiencies and capabilities that aren’t available to you. In response, we have to change our perspective.

An archaic system or process may not be inherently broken, but its use to solve your business needs may well be broken in light of newer, faster, and more powerful alternatives.

If your enterprise is like most, then it has come to depend upon one or perhaps several core operational systems that run on legacy platforms. These systems have served you well, but are increasingly expensive to support. What you may not realize is that math and the sheer rate of innovation in computing are both working in your favor. Migrating to a modern platform has never made as much sense as it does today.

Enterprise computing used to be expensive

Consistent with Moore’s Law, we have seen computing power grow over time as costs continue to plummet. My first computer was a 286 AT which topped out at 12 MHZ and cost several hundred dollars in 1991. Last month I bought my wife a Chromebook for less than that 286 and it came with 1.7 GHZ (141 times as fast, for less money).

What about Enterprises? The most advanced edition of the IBM z900 series was released in the second quarter of 2002.  For just over $5,000,000 you had a state-of-the-art mainframe system.  But what constituted cutting-edge processing in 2002 is trivial in 2014 (and surprisingly inexpensive).

Your phone might be more powerful than your legacy system

I don’t know what kind of phone you have or how dated your legacy system is, but it’s quite possible that you have more processing power in your pocket than you do in that aging legacy system you have been nursing in your data center.

Let’s compare the legacy system to modern computing capabilities.  We’ll use Million Instructions Per Second (MIPS), which is a crude, but reasonably effective means of measuring processing power.  Consider the following:

  • Legacy system – The same z900 system from 2002 ($5 million) which we previously mentioned, could accomplish 3192 MIPS. (z900 Specs)
  • Laptop – The Intel i7 chip, common in most laptops today, ranges between 92,000 and 177,000 MIPS. Thus, your laptop ($1000-$2000) is between 28x and 55x as powerful as your z900 in terms of processing speed. (Chipset Specs)
  • Smartphone – The A7 chip in the iPhone 5s ($200-$850) clocks over 20,000 MIPS. So even your phone is 6x as powerful as your z900. (iPhone Specs)

This phenomenal growth in processing power has been experienced across the entire spectrum of computing (multiple cores, larger RAM sets, faster RAM, etc.) and even further extended through the massive growth in virtualization.  Hardware today is orders of magnitude more powerful than what was available when your legacy system was deployed.

You don’t carry a brick phone anymore for a reason

Brick Phone

What was considered a large deployment in 2002 is considered trivial now.  With a couple of relatively cheap blades and a redundant storage system behind it, you could replace your legacy system with a modern and far more capable platform for less than $150,000 in hardware investment.  Moreover, the resulting solution would require less physical space, less power, and less cooling.

A slew of benefits exist for migrating your legacy system to a modern platform. Benefits include the following:

  • Faster processing
  • Higher throughput
  • More flexible processing through virtualization
  • Access to more productive and powerful software and infrastructure platforms
  • Lower maintenance costs
  • Faster deployment cycles
  • Smaller physical footprint
  • Lower operational costs

Time to trade-up

Now that you’re all out of excuses, it’s time to seriously consider migrating your legacy system to a modern platform. For the cost of 2-3 years worth of maintenance on your mainframe, you can migrate to a modern, supportable, and flexible platform that will more readily adapt alongside your changing business. It may not be broken yet, but relying upon outdated technology is a broken strategy that needs to change.

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More Stories By Kyle Gabhart

Kyle Gabhart is a subject matter expert specializing in strategic planning and tactical delivery of enterprise technology solutions, blending EA, BPM, SOA, Cloud Computing, and other emerging technologies. Kyle currently serves as a director for Web Age Solutions, a premier provider of technology education and mentoring. Since 2001 he has contributed extensively to the IT community as an author, speaker, consultant, and open source contributor.