CA Telon is a Computer Aided Software Engineering (CASE) application development environment that was originally designed by Chris McNeil and Don Christensen in the late 1970s. At the time, McNeil was a software engineer at Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and Christensen was an IBM Systems Engineer contracting with Liberty Mutual. The pair was motivated to create the code generator, we now know as CA Telon, to ease the development of the presentation layer on the IBM 3790 minicomputer. As CA Telon’s functionality grew, so did its popularity within the insurance sector and beyond.
Over the years the IT landscape has changed dramatically. Whilst CA Telon’s efficacy has endured, several increasingly impactful factors have driven users to look for alternatives. This blog looks at the challenges associated with CA Telon and the business case for CA Telon modernization.
High cost of system ownership
Mainframes are expensive. Exactly how expensive depends on several factors including size, complexity, usage and the latest deal struck with the company’s major vendors. Environments with CA Telon artifacts tend to be particularly expensive due to the unique licensing and bundling fees associated with the language and supporting tools.
Based on customer insights, a mainframe’s annual operating cost (excluding staff) is between US$2,000-US$5,000 per MIPS, with much of this cost in contracted software licensing. A comparable workload can run in a public Cloud environment for between 10-30 per cent of that.
Advanced’s 2020 Mainframe Modernization Business Barometer Report also found that on average organizations could save US$31 million if they modernized the most urgent aspect of their legacy systems. The financial services sector was considerably higher, with an average saving of US$44 million. Whilst individual results can certainly vary, modernization is a proven cost reduction strategy.
Many organizations are running mission-critical applications on legacy systems that do not have a roadmap for significant feature improvement. In the case of CA Telon, few significant features have been added in over a decade. Unlike modern platforms, CA Telon’s development roadmap doesn’t accurately reflect the value of the data stored on the platform.
Diminishing skills and resources
Developers who understand 4GL languages, such as CA Telon, are becoming increasingly difficult to find. People who know how to work with mainframe technology are steadily retiring, and most universities no longer offer mainframe instruction, as 4GL and procedural languages such as Telon, COBOL or PL/I are no longer used for greenfield development projects. According to the 2018 Forrester study ‘Modern Mainframe KPIs Are Key To A Successful Digital Strategy’, enterprises lost an average of 23 per cent of specialist mainframe staff in the five years previous and a huge 63 per cent of open positions remained unfilled. As the shortage of experienced programmers grows, the risk of relying on a shrinking talent pool and the cost of these resources continue to rise.
Difficulty responding to competitive pressure
Lack of frameworks, productive and advanced IDEs, debugging tools and test automation add significant time to development cycles on the mainframe. Organizations relying on maintaining and extending legacy systems using waterfall development methods have a long average time-to-market, meaning they respond slowly to challenges from competitors. In recent years, modern agile practices such as continuous integration and DevOps, have further exacerbated the troubles associated with sluggish development cycles in legacy environments. Advanced’s 2020 Mainframe Modernization Business Barometer Report found that 85 per cent of respondents preferred agile development practices over traditional waterfall methods, with 33 per cent stating that modernizing would allow them to be more reactive to market changes.
To make matters worse, the cumbersome nature of these old systems has significant downstream effects. Even when new applications are developed using modern technologies, integrating these with core business functionality running on mainframes is a highly constrained, time intensive and risky task.
Most organizations are grappling with what to do with their mission-critical legacy workloads running on expensive mainframe systems. These monolithic applications are often core line of business systems, integral to their organization. Now is the time to evaluate the risk of doing nothing and review the options available to modernize. Our whitepaper titled ‘The business case, challenges and solution options to modernize CA Telon applications’ shares insight into the pros and cons of each option and more detail about the established Advanced CA Telon modernization solution.