Companies who are moving their mainframe development and testing from the mainframe environment to a Windows environment are seeing significant productivity gains of between 21% and 71%, thereby extending the lifetime of the mainframe, while significantly reducing mainframe associated costs, writes Mike Bergen, MigrationWare Gauteng regional manager.

Studies show that over a standard application lifecycle of six years, the price of application maintenance can be up to ten times the cost of the original development. Given the longevity of mission-critical Cobol systems, it’s not uncommon for the price tag of maintenance to account for as much as 80 percent of the total cost over the lifetime of an application – both in terms of budget expenditure, and programming resources.
Companies using mainframes should expect application maintenance costs to soar even higher as the code gets older and more complex due to modifications and revisions. The increasing demands of application-maintenance, time-to-market pressures, budgetary constraints and the need for improved programmer productivity are resulting in companies utilising updated technology to quickly meet evolving market demands.
There are two major factors affecting mainframe development. Firstly, development is done on the mainframe, which affects mainframe performance. Secondly, that mainframe development environment is not nearly as conducive to development as a modern Windows-based environment.
Many companies are now moving the development and testing functions off the mainframe and giving their programmers access to modern toolsets in the development process. This not only enables programmers to develop in a more productive environment, but improves their motivation and results in quicker turnaround times.
Furthermore, expensive mainframe upgrades can be forestalled as the mainframe is used only as a final systems test and deployment server.
The DePaul University in Chicago conducted a study which measured development and testing done in a Windows Environment where developers had all the advantages of a modern development environment compared to developing and testing on the mainframe. The study found:
* 60% performance gain in analysis-related tasks;
* 71% speed increase in compiling and syntax error clean-up;
* 50% improvement in editing; and
* 24% to 40% increase in overall testing performance.
Taking development and testing off the mainframe resulted in a total average gains increase of 33 to 40 percent allowing companies to complete mainframe projects in significantly less time, free up programmers to tackle a growing backlog of new projects, take solutions to market faster and improve code reliability.
However, productivity percentage figures can often be soft figures that do not always give companies a concrete idea of the benefits of a Windows based environment. The DePaul study therefore did some analysis on specific projects and found that a 16- to 80-hour mainframe project could be done in between 6,2 and 32,2 hours if the development and testing was done in Windows based software, or a time saving of up to 52%.
Going back to the fact that mainframe maintenance can account for as much as 80% of the cost over the lifetime of an application, reducing maintenance on the mainframe results in significant savings for corporates.
Locally, some corporates who run large mainframes have found that even a productivity gain of under 10% in the development time and the increased capacity created on the mainframe (as a result of taking the development and testing phase off the mainframe) makes the process of migrating development and testing off the mainframe very worthwhile.