Old Systems Cannot Run Forever

As IT systems get older, their ownership costs quickly rise. Legacy minicomputer systems like Alpha and VAX from DEC / Digital / HP require large amounts of space in air-conditioned computer rooms. As modern computers become more efficient, the relative cost of running legacy systems gradually increases year after year.

In many cases, these systems have been running for decades with very little downtime. But even the most reliable components will fail eventually. As the availability of replacement parts dwindles, the costs and lead times soar.

For many IT departments, their biggest concern is the uncertainty. They have fewer staff with the specialist legacy systems knowledge to recover from systems failures.

IT Departments Must Decide

IT departments have to decide what to do with their legacy systems. Should they?

  • Maintain – keep them running as is. Implement proactive maintenance and enhance contingency plans to recover from systems failures.
  • Replace – use entirely new applications and modern systems to re-implement from scratch.
  • Migrate – move the application and data to a modern operating system and server.

Many IT departments have decided they must act, but cannot justify the budget for completely replacing or migrating mature legacy systems. They know their applications have been heavily customized to meet the business’s specific requirements. There is no easy upgrade path – they need another solution.

Emulation Offers “Best of Both Worlds”

Emulation software running on a modern server can produce an exact replica of a legacy system running entirely in software. Instead of having to choose between expensive application changes or expensive, unreliable hardware, you can have the best of both worlds.

  • Modern, efficient, compact, commodity hardware that is easy to replace AND
  • Reliable applications that can be left unchanged.

Example: AlphaServer/Tru64 + VAX/VMS → 1 Intel-Based Server

example legacy systems emulaton

As an example, about 25 years ago a company developed their own application using a DEC VAX 4500 and later added an Alpha Server running Tru64 Unix. The application was written in DEC Cobol and used DEC CDD (Common Data Dictionary) to store record definitions. DEC’s Rdb was used as the main database, for reporting and archiving. The application became very important to the company and was rolled out throughout the company. Over the next few years, the system was regularly enhanced and became firmly established as a mission-critical system.

In the meantime, DEC has been bought by Compaq and then HP. Following changes in ownership and product strategy, AlphaServer, Rdb, Tru64, and VAX are all being “end-of-lifed”.

Without attractive support or upgrade options from HP, the company decided to use emulation. They were already using rack-mounted Intel Xeon blades running virtualized Windows or Linux for most of their IT systems. They found they could use a single high-spec HP Proliant with Intel Xeon processors to replace both

  • The AlphaServer running Tru64 UNIX and
  • The VAX running OpenVMS

Both legacy systems could be emulated on the same modern server:

  • Faithfully reproducing the full functionality of both legacy systems.
  • Increasing reliability, availability, and resilience by using hardware that is easy to replace.
  • Simplifying IT operations by using standard hardware and not requiring specialist legacy hardware knowledge.
  • Offering faster performance and increased capacity.
  • Reducing requirements for electricity, cooling, and floor space – decreasing environmental impact and running costs.

How to Emulate Your Legacy System on Modern Hardware

At RapidGen, we always start by surveying your legacy systems to check details

  • Hardware model, storage devices, network interfaces, peripherals, memory
  • Operating system, layered products, applications and version
  • Requirements for availability, capacity, and performance

We can then recommend and implement

  • Which emulation software will provide the best solution
  • Hardware and operating system for the modern server
  • Virtualization software, depending on requirements
  • Pre-migration changes to the legacy system e.g. software updates
  • Approach for physically transferring data to the new system
  • A testing plan to validate a complete and successful migration

Free up your computer room and your budget by emulating your legacy systems. Call RapidGen at +44 (0)20 7630 9291 to see how quickly your legacy systems problems can be solved.