We are heading into the biggest transformation of business since the move from the mainframe to open systems. Today’s world requires a nimbleness and costing structure that takes the risk out of technology – all based on cloud services. But how you get there, the business case and where to start are big issues – but not the top issue. The primary challenge is how organizations reconcile their existing systems and decide what to migrate, archive or completely retire.

Defining ‘retirement’ and ‘decommissioning’

In the military ships and planes go through two phases of being taken out of being combat ready =

  • The act of being taken out of service – ‘retirement’. There is a famous aeronautical base in Tucson, Arizona nick named ‘the graveyard’. Like a ‘zombie land’ or aircraft history that may be used for spare parts or complete rehabilitation and re-entry into service.
David Monthan Air Base – Tucson, Arizona
  • Then physically taken apart and scraped – ‘decommissioning’. Eventually a decision is made and the final act of destruction takes place – the act of disassembly with potentially sensitive parts or knowledge destroyed – and the rest sent for recycling or melted down for the value of the alloys.
Decommissioning of the aircraft to remove from the tarmac

IT systems

Interestingly, the same idea can be applied to legacy IT applications. Costly to operate and no longer used for production processing, such applications chew up budget that could be better used for something else. If we could decommission them like aging aircraft, we could cut out a huge chunk of the IT maintenance budget.

But there is a reason that legacy systems stay in place. This includes:

  • CHEAPER TO KEEP HER: Although no longer in regular use, they contain historical data that often must be retained for both business reasons and to meet legal, compliance and regulatory requirements. This data may be stored in arcane formats that only the original application can read.
  • THE NEW APPLICATION COULD NOT CONSUME ALL OF THE OLD: Even though a new technology is in place by the organization, not all the old data could be migrated because of limits in the new system or a decision was made to because of cost or burden. When the legacy system was displaced by a newer application – or inherited through merger or acquisition—it was easier to leave the old data where it was rather than attempt to convert it.
  • A NEWER VERSION LEAVES AN OLDER ONE VERSION ONLINE: Even in moving to a new version of an enterprise application, that act of upgrading leaves sensitive data that was not migrated over. Primary example is moving from an older SAP system to the newest with SAP HANA. That older version could have over 10 years of corporate history which cannot be physically managed in the newer environment.

The ultimate problem is the sum total of money it takes to keep the old applications running. This is not a new revelation – over 8 years ago research found the US government spent 50% of their IT budget to maintain legacy that was deemed “in need of modernization”.

To state the obvious, that’s a lot of money on the table. But it takes two phases:

  1. RETIREMENT: Most of you have ‘zombie systems’ where machines (rather physical or virtual) are still running but the system is not used to operate or measure the business. Like the aircraft base in Arizona, your data center has many operational ready systems just consuming space, power, people and – most important – maintenance dollars. But as these systems get older they become a security threat as layers in the technology go end-of-service and a large governance, risk and compliance conundrum. Operating system patches, database end-of-life and even hardware firmware updates abound.
  2. DECOMMISSIONING: Extracting the value from the systems – the data and their relationships/context – and flipping the switch. Like the aircraft example, taking the equipment apart and properly disposing of the parts. For instance, making sure any media is properly wiped or destroyed.

So how do we solve these issues and take advantage of the opportunity? How do you gain the economic value (maintenance, people and data center savings ) and risk value (properly extract the data and value to best access it when needed by the organization)?

What is Decommissioning?

No matter your motivation – application reconciliation from an acquisition of another company, migration to a new technology or the need to archive old data out of existing systems becoming bloated with data – complete application decommissioning is a strategic approach for systematically retiring outdated and costly legacy applications—without compromising business needs or compliance requirements. It does this in two important ways.

  1. It uses a rigorous process to analyze the application portfolio and identify the best candidates for decommissioning. This is based on a combination of their value to the business, the savings that can be achieved, and the cost to retire them. In general, the best candidates have valuable data that needs to be retained for a long time—thus offering longer-term cost savings—while not being overly difficult to deal with technically.
  2. Employ technology that can extract data from difficult legacy environments and store it in a simpler, open and more compliant system-of-record. This includes maintaining a full legal chain-of-custody audit trail of the data, maintaining business logic around data layout and cardinality and allowing a more standard set of security, privacy, retention policies and rules in the archival.

Platform 3 Solutions brings a complete set of technologies, people and expertise to an organization as we represent the largest company that 100% focuses on the act of complete system migration, archival and complete decommissioning. This starts by using an open standards based, XML-based repository called InfoArchive – from Opentext. Unlike older data archiving and hierarchical storage management systems, InfoArchive allows data to be actively queried, reported, and integrated with other data for business analytics. At the same time, it includes a rich set of security, privacy and data retention rules that can be customized to meet or exceed the level of legal and regulatory compliance exhibited by the original application. But using InfoArchive as the final ‘system-of-record’ is just the beginning.

Archon – end to end services to automate app decomm

Platform 3 Solutions also brings an additive technology called Archon that brings legacy system connectivity, machine-learning analytical capability that can reverse engineer the data, referential integrity and business logic of the old system, a sophisticated extraction and loading engine that is multithreaded to allow for trickle or fully open data transfer and finally the ability to auto configure the repository and auto generate the query and output screens for InfoArchive.

Result: A repeatable ‘decommissioning refinery’

The act to clean up those legacy systems is now a ‘one and done’ moment. Every organization has 10s if not 100s of these clogging data centers.

Platform 3 Solutions understands how to analyze the technical and business ramifications in starting and maintaining this type of need. We have over 100 experts that focus on this need for clients. As new knowledge is accumulated, it is also encapsulated into the Archon product to drive faster and more systemic decommissioning of systems. This also means you can build an internal center-of-excellence (COE) that helps your organization better invest and transform without the cost or burden within legacy systems.

Finally consider our airplane boneyard in Tucson, they even have to make room for the addition of new aircraft and need to dismantle and ‘decommission’ older airframes. At the base, aircraft are categorized into 4 categories:

  • Type 1000 – Aircraft for long-term storage, to be maintained until recalled to active service. These aircraft are “inviolate” – have a high potential to return to flying status and no parts may be removed from them. These aircraft are “represerved” every four years.
  • Type 2000 – aircraft available for parts reclamation, as “aircraft storage bins” for parts, to keep other aircraft flying.
  • Type 3000 – “flying hold” aircraft kept in near flyable condition in short-term, temporary storage; waiting for transfer to another unit, sale to another country, or reclassification to the other three types.
  • Type 4000 – aircraft in excess of DoD needs – these have been gutted and every usable part has been reclaimed. They will be sold, broken down into scrap, smelted into ingots, and recycled.

But within our technology world today, yours is most likely much simpler:

  • Active – Currently used by the enterprise
  • Run-out – Being taken off line once the functions it served have been cut over to something newer
  • Retired – Still running but no longer used by the business except for legacy or legal queries.
  • Decommissioning – Scraping and turning off (like Type 4000 aircraft)

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