Published on April 30, 2023 7:26 pm

By Deepthy

Advantages and Challenges of Migrating from AS400 to Cloud: A Comprehensive Guide for Legacy Application Modernization

The advent of cloud computing has opened up new avenues for numerous organizations that are currently dependent on IBM power systems - a group of computers created in 2008 - to execute their mission-critical functions using AS400 applications. By utilizing advanced technologies and implementing a comprehensive modernization plan, it is possible to transfer vital applications such as ERP systems from IBM's physical servers to a cloud-based environment. This will aid in improving scalability and enhancing the competitive edge of your business. This article explores the advantages and challenges associated with migrating from AS400 to the cloud, as well as strategies for commencing legacy modernization using cloud migration.

Benefits of Cloud Migration for AS400 Application Modernization

Incorporating cloud migration for legacy systems can be instrumental in future-proofing your organization and enhancing user experience (UX). Below are some of the outcomes that can be anticipated from a well-planned and well-executed cloud migration strategy:

Flexibility: Moving AS400 systems to the cloud and avoiding reliance on hardware results in faster processing and greater adaptability to shifts in your business requirements.

Accessibility: With an internet connection, your business's data can be accessed via desktop or mobile devices.

Security: Cloud services are typically equipped with pre-built, customizable application security features that offer peace of mind that your company's sensitive information as well as your customer's data is protected.

Cost-effectiveness: Cloud environments are less expensive to maintain than physical servers, and with a "pay-as-you-go" model, you only pay for the amount of cloud computing you use each month. These cost savings will eventually lead to significant savings for your business in the long run. AS400 applications face issues such as bugs, high maintenance costs, and lack of scalability, which often require significant budget allocation to address. By modernizing their legacy systems strategically, organizations can develop robust applications and reduce spending on outdated code maintenance

. AS400 applications' monolithic nature makes them challenging to modify. In contrast, modernized applications easily integrate new features, functions, and services. This enables businesses to better serve their customers, resulting in an enhanced user experience and increased revenue.

Scalability: With increased system agility, you can handle spikes in demand while also incorporating advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to streamline workflows.

Enhanced User Experience: Existing IBM i applications that rely on 'green screens' may not offer the best user experience. Due to their monolithic architecture, these applications often lack flexibility and are hard to modify. Application modernization greatly improves user experience by transforming the user interface, integrating new features and services, and automating manual processes.

Increased Productivity: Modern technology reduces the cognitive burden on developers and IT staff, allowing them to work more efficiently. Legacy application modernization enables businesses to automate repetitive tasks, freeing up time for critical, high-value work. Additionally, improved functionalities and features of a modernized application further streamline operations, thereby increasing productivity.

Challenges of Cloud Migration for AS400 Application Modernization

Although there are numerous advantages to modernizing legacy systems, migrating existing AS400 applications to the cloud can be a complex and time-consuming undertaking, which is why many businesses resist the change. Below are the primary challenges faced by organizations:

Compatibility issues: Compatibility issues may arise when attempting to migrate AS400 applications to the cloud because the cloud operates on a different environment than the IBM servers for which the applications were originally developed. This includes differences in the operating system, storage, and other infrastructure, which can cause problems such as data loss and application downtime.

Lack of technical expertise: The primary challenge in modernizing AS400 is the shortage of experts with the necessary skills. The lack of technical documentation, as well as inconsistent source code, can exacerbate the problem, making it difficult for teams to tackle the project. The number of proficient developers experienced in AS400 software is dwindling, and a successful migration strategy necessitates an expert understanding of legacy technologies and cloud solutions, which many companies lack in-house.

Security apprehensions: Businesses that deal with highly sensitive information, such as those in the healthcare sector, cannot afford to take chances with data leaks during their cloud migration. In most cases, stakeholders lack the tools and expertise required to plan and execute a completely secure migration.

Change management: Cloud migration enables new workflows through automation, which can disrupt a business's internal processes and culture. Some organizations may not be prepared to undergo these changes. Despite the widespread digital transformation taking place, some employees may be resistant to changing outdated systems, making it challenging to implement modernization initiatives. Organizations may face significant opposition from key stakeholders during major overhauls.

Database restructuring: The AS400 database is outdated, making it challenging to integrate with other system applications. This implies that the database must be restructured for a cloud environment, which necessitates a significant amount of time, effort, and technical knowledge. Modernization requires the transfer of a large volume of data from different databases and files. Moreover, AS400 systems typically use EBCDIC character encoding, whereas modern systems utilize ASCII encoding, which can add complexity to the migration process.

Lack of a Clear Plan: With millions of lines of code to manage, organizations must have a clear strategy for deciding what to maintain, upgrade, or migrate. Without a well-defined plan, businesses may struggle to achieve their desired outcomes.

High Modernization Costs: The high cost of modernizing AS400 may be a significant deterrent for some organizations. Estimating the budget for modernization can be challenging, as businesses may encounter unforeseen expenses such as scaling the workforce or dealing with other unexpected issues.

Impact on Business as Usual: AS400 modernization may result in lengthy downtime due to the system's high complexity and the need for source code modifications during bug fixes or improvements. Additionally, the updated user interface of the application may cause reduced user productivity for several days.

Cloud Migration Strategies for AS400 Application Modernization

Cloud migration can be a daunting task, but it is necessary to leverage the many benefits of cloud computing. The migration process involves five key steps. The first step is to establish the migration architect role to lead the effort. The migration architect is responsible for planning and completing all aspects of the migration. The second step is to choose your level of cloud integration, which can be a shallow cloud integration or a deep cloud integration. The third step is to decide whether to go with a single-cloud provider or a multi-cloud approach. The fourth step is to establish cloud key performance indicators (KPIs). Finally, the fifth step is to establish performance baselines.

The migration architect is responsible for all aspects of the migration. This is critical to the success of the project since many decisions and technical plans must be made during the course of a large migration project. The migration architect should define the necessary refactoring required to make the migration successful, design strategies for data migration, define cloud-solution requirements, and determine migration priorities and production switchover mechanisms.

There are two ways to migrate your application to the cloud, which are shallow cloud integration and deep cloud integration. For a shallow cloud integration, the on-premises application is moved to the cloud without making any or limited changes to the servers. For a deep cloud integration, you modify your application during the migration process to take advantage of key cloud capabilities. This might be nothing more advanced than using auto-scaling and dynamic load balancing, or it might be as sophisticated as utilizing serverless computing capabilities such as AWS Lambda for portions of the application.

Before beginning the cloud migration process, it is important to decide whether to go with a single cloud provider or a multi-cloud approach. Optimizing your application to work with a specific cloud provider is relatively simple. However, this approach may result in vendor lock-in, negatively impacting your ability to negotiate important terms, and limiting your flexibility. In contrast, the multi-cloud approach has several different models, such as running one set of applications in one cloud provider and another set in another or splitting your application across multiple cloud providers. Building your application to be a cloud-agnostic model gives you the ultimate flexibility in vendor negotiations because you can easily shift loads from one cloud provider to another.

Cloud KPIs are metrics that you gather about your application or service to measure how it is performing against your expectations. The best KPIs for a cloud migration show how your in-progress migration is doing and help you determine when the migration is complete and successful. There are several key categories of cloud migration KPIs, such as migration readiness KPIs, migration throughput KPIs, and post-migration performance KPIs.

Establishing performance baselines is the process of measuring the current (pre-migration) performance of your application or service in order to determine if its future (post-migration) performance is acceptable. Baselines help you determine when your migration is complete and provide validation of the post-migration performance improvements you expected. You can also refer to baselines during a cloud migration to diagnose any problems that might arise.

In conclusion, cloud migration involves several steps that are critical to the success of the project. The migration architect should be responsible for all aspects of the migration. You must decide on the level of cloud integration, choose between a single cloud provider or a multi-cloud approach, establish cloud KPIs, and establish performance baselines. By following these steps, you can ensure a successful cloud migration that leverages the many benefits of cloud computing.

Factors to Consider when Choosing a Cloud Migration Strategy for AS400 Application Modernization

When considering migrating to the cloud, there are several crucial steps that organizations must take to ensure a smooth and successful process. These include:

Migration Architecture: Building a comprehensive migration architecture is the first step to ensuring a successful cloud migration process. This involves defining cloud requirements, planning resources, and designing strategies for cloud data transfer. It's up to the migration architect to make critical decisions and oversee technical planning and structured design.

Cloud Platform Assessment: Choosing the right cloud platform can be a challenge for enterprises. The APIs and technology used while developing software will impact how well applications can be optimized on a cloud platform. Organizations must assess their business prerequisites and technology needs before deciding on a single or multi-cloud platform.

Total Cost: Estimating the total cost of cloud migration is critical for every company. Enterprises must evaluate their infrastructure and internal resources before investing in a cloud migration approach. They also need to be informed about the pricing module of cloud platforms, as there are various tools and third-party applications that can help grow their business and increase productivity.

Cloud Provider: It's essential to choose the right cloud provider before investing in cloud migration tools. Companies should analyze and scrutinize potential providers based on technology, compatibility, international standards, and governing policies. An appropriate provider can work efficiently with applications and offer 24/7 support to the company.

Security: Data is a crucial and confidential element for any company, and it must be protected. Before deploying applications on a cloud provider's platform, organizations must thoroughly scrutinize their security policies and regulations. According to survey reports, more than 60% of companies are concerned about the security measures followed by cloud providers.

Final Thoughts

Cloud migration services provide numerous advantages such as cost reduction, ease of use, flexible subscription, automatic software updates, enhanced security, and much more. As the benefits of migrating to the cloud are plentiful, most enterprises have found it easy to migrate to the cloud platform. According to reports, a large majority of companies will migrate their applications to the cloud. However, while migrating to the cloud platform may seem easy and flexible, organizations must be extremely cautious about where they position their applications in the cloud. For your AS400 cloud migration and application modernization needs, contact our trusted experts at Vofox. We have accumulated years of expertise in serving clients who use AS400, which enables us to migrate your digital infrastructure to the cloud accurately and delicately.

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