Originally published in September 2015 – by Andrew Bates
On September 9, 2015, I was invited to present on an interactive roundtable conference call with (Dell) EMC. The focus of the call was business challenges around application decommissioning and data archiving and how Flatirons is helping clients use the InfoArchive platform to address them. This is a summary of highlights from the roundtable call.
Q: Who is Flatirons?
A: Flatirons is a long-time (Dell) EMC business partner, a member of the InfoArchive Consortium, and was named Worldwide Partner of the Year in 2015 by (Dell) EMC’s Enterprise Content Division. We specialize in helping organizations address content lifecycle management challenges using leading enterprise content management systems like Documentum and InfoArchive. Recently, we have focused on helping customers decommission legacy applications and provide ongoing access to their data through the use of the InfoArchive platform.
Q: What are some of the business challenges customers face around archiving and application decommissioning?
A: When I think about business challenges across industries, one of the common themes among customers we’ve helped is the burden of data accumulated over the years. This is coupled with pressures of the industries they’re in. These tend to be regulated industries, such as healthcare and financial services, with data retention and security requirements. Also, where there is a lot of merger and acquisition activity, there is a lot of application redundancy. In some industries, data on older systems is strategic to the operations of the business and needs to be kept around for analytics, for customers, and other business reasons. There are a variety of pressures to keep and retain data, and as technology gets long in the tooth and as time evolves you have to manage data from cradle-to-grave and in a cost-effective way. This is where it becomes critical to decommission expensive legacy applications and move data on them to a more cost-effective solution that provides ongoing access to data in a much more simplified and compliant fashion.
Q: How are Flatirons’ customers are using InfoArchive?
A: At the end of the day, it’s about understanding what you need to do with the data from legacy applications and why you need to keep it. What is necessary to support your business? How do users need to search and report on the data from older applications? What are the retention rules; how long do you need to keep data, and when should you expire it?
Once you know these types of data-driven requirements, you can then start looking at the format of the legacy data and how you can get it out of the legacy system or systems. Then you start to consider how to convert the data and make it available for search, to support compliance, determining who can access it, etc., and you migrate the data into InfoArchive and retire the legacy application. You can repeat this process across a number of applications across your organization. This is where it really gets interesting, and the initial part doesn’t take very long.
For example, with BMO Harris Bank, we started a project, extracted data and retired a system, migrating 2 TB over a three-month period, also establishing a best practice for BMO. In another example, we helped a healthcare provider decommission 10 applications, including understanding requirements and developing customized search and reporting.
Q: Once the data is into InfoArchive, do you see customers wanting to run analytics on that data?
A: Yes, there are two parts to it. It’s not just about big data but data integrity as well. We’re taking data from one legacy system and putting it into another. We have to be able to verify that data that’s been extracted hasn’t been corrupted or changed. We do this along the way. In the broader sense of analytics itself, the nice thing about InfoArchive is that we can connect around big data. You may have some Hadoop initiatives or analytics running outside IT consolidation. What we’re able to do is take InfoArchive and make it look like a Hadoop endpoint and that lets customers participate in data lakes and broader analytics programs. This is very complementary from an analytics perspective.
Q: How does Flatirons help customers with the implementation of InfoArchive?
A: As a services provider, we help organizations work through the rationalization of how to tackle application decommissioning and how to identify opportunities and applications that are candidates for application retirement. Then we help clients execute their application decommissioning strategy. We can work up a “factory” or a best practices model across an organization that can exist beyond the project we do with a customer.
Q: Once a customer has an InfoArchive platform, can they decommission other applications without Flatirons?
A: Yes, absolutely. We teach people “how to fish,” so to speak. What’s attractive about this is that application decommissioning is an on-going strategy rather than a one-time activity. A lot of the debt and the weight of the data in the IT ecosystem can be released over time. We may help retire the first few applications, and then we teach the customer how to continue and we roll off. With one healthcare provider, for example, we were active up front and now they’re continuing to retire applications and follow best practices for long-term and substantial benefit.
Q: What are some of the metrics and benefits customers have seen?
A: Most front and center are the dollars saved or cost take out. In the case of BMO, they saved over $5M in their IT budget. A health insurance provider we worked with was able to achieve $1M in cost reductions by removing hardware and maintenance costs. There are also soft costs in efficiency improvements by reducing the application management burden on IT; they can put money and time into more modern applications by decommissioning older ones. Also, you can mitigate risk better because you’ve consolidated data onto a standardized platform. Instead of multiple platforms, you’re using one central point that’s appropriately supported with the right resourcing. And, finally, people generally like to work with InfoArchive because it’s more modern technology, which helps with staff retention and morale.
Q: Have you been faced with any applications you haven’t been able to decommission? Are there certain older legacy applications where there isn’t a solution for decommissioning?
A: Not that I’ve seen. I’m sure there are challenges but it’s not a technology limiter. The risk part is having the knowledge of the data structure. This is what it boils down to. We’ve seen comma delimited file formats; understanding what the fields are that aren’t labeled takes sitting down with experts in an organization. The risk area is to work with the people who have the knowledge in the organization, and some of the older applications are managed by people who have been in the organization for a while. Another benefit of doing an application decommissioning project is that it helps systematize information so that it’s retained in the organization rather than just existing as tribal knowledge.