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NASA’s Transformation Journey to a mainframe-free landing

It was on Feb 20, 1962 that John Glenn reached a new landing when he became the first American astronaut  to orbit Earth in his Friendship Mercury 7 spacecraft.  Almost fifty years later, NASA reached a new landing when the Marshall Space Flight Center powered down NASA's last mainframe as posted by NASA CIO, Linda Cureton in her blog. To do so, NASA would have had to define and execute a modernization strategy on all the applications that resided on the mainframe environment, including this last one left standing. Cureton says that it “marks the end of an era.”  I see this as a new landing for NASA on the journey that they embarked upon decades ago. A journey that would have required them to assess the portfolio of applications residing on the mainframe and define a strategy to selectively modernize them off the mainframe platform. 


This transformation journey is probably not much different than the fascinating space journeys that NASA has undertaken to date. Think about the various space shuttle launches that entail sending a well-knit team of astronauts , who are deeply-rooted in their earthly routines, into space -- relocating them to a new environment  that is lighter (less gravity), lean (efficient use of resources) and automated (reduced dependency on manual operations).  The team has to be relocated to this new environment but continue to deliver on their professional and personal expertise (functionality) whether they be scientists, geologists or musicians (multiple business domains)


Thus, NASA has engaged in the re-hosting of such logical sets of human functionality to a modernized, state of the art environment in the space shuttles for several years now. Could these launches have permeated the mind-set of the modernization strategists at NASA?  Both journeys – the one that takes off from Planet Earth, as well as the one that migrates off the mainframe, involve 3 key phases as I outline below:


  1. Orientation. Astronaut teams are trained in a simulated space shuttle environment for months before they are in the actual space shuttle itself. This is akin to doing a prototype of select application functionality in the new environment. Thus, the orientation of the astronauts would be equivalent to a proof-of-concept of the existing legacy mainframe application on the new platform.
  2. Cutover. This is that brief period where the astronauts are seated in the space shuttle after it is moved to the launch pad from the hangar, and the carrier vehicle takes it a few miles into the sky after which it is detached. Cut … over. It is a period of transition where we have both the mainframe and the new platform running in parallel, and we compare the information generated from both systems to ensure that the new environment continues to deliver on existing functionality. All systems are go with fallback plans in place if problems are detected. 
  3. Launch. Four, three, two, one ... Earth below us  ... Drifting, Falling ... Floating weightless ... Calling, Calling home ... Reminds me of Peter Schilling's 1983 Major Tom (Coming Home). The shuttle is launched with this team of astronauts completely on their own continuing to do what they do … the same application functionality … in the new, agile, light-weight, lean environment. Planet Earth fades into the distance, becoming a spec and then  into oblivion. And the team of astronauts has been successfully re-hosted to their new environment.

Which is what NASA did when they migrated their last application from the IBM Z9 mainframe per Cureton’s blog post. NASA's IT has successfully landed on a significant milestone in their biggest journey of all -- to re-host the right applications from their mainframe to their desired destination and subsequently retiring the mainframe. 


HP continues to work with several customers on defining their overall application transformation strategy, factoring in multiple modernization alternatives including re-hosting services.  But then, as I outline in one of my earlier posts, Applications Transformation is a journey where you land on multiple destinations over time.


NASA has landed on one such destination.  Like Patrick Thibodeau mentions in Computerworld, NASA signed a decade long $2.5B outsourcing pact with HP, which opens up opportunities to closely work with NASA on their transformation program going forward.  As I mention in my post on my close encounter with the Performance Optimized Data Center (POD), HP re-hosts whole data centers to a lean, agile, automated environment while re-hosting applications off the mainframe.


For sure, when Sittra Battle of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center shut down the last mainframe, the NASA enterprise successfully re-hosted itself to a new landing!


Where is your enterprise today on your Transformation Journey?  Is there a new landing around the corner?  If so, what was the modernization strategy that you employed?  Did you consider re-hosting?  I would be curious to know.


To learn more about HP’s Application Transformation solutions, visit these resources:

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  • Business Development leader for HP’s Testing Practice in Americas and TaaS Global Capability Leader
  • Anthony works in the ES Apps Enterprise APJ . He is a self-motivated and well-disposed individual. He is a certified SAP FICO consultant. He has over twenty years industry experience in business transformation and Information Technology consulting (SAP). With excellent, interpersonal and communication skills, Anthony is able to influence and motivate at all levels. An empathic team player, He derives fulfilment in contributing towards others' development. Anthony possesses good analytical and problem-solving skills. He is a quick thinker, remains calm under pressure, handles multiple tasks, and accomplishes objectives with excellent time management. He is flexible and accustomed to meeting high standards and deadlines. Anthony possesses practical knowledge of business processes and concepts and has a keen eye for detail. He is aware of the importance of an effective system and quality management.
  • Bryan Coapstick is the Director of Mobile Innovation at HP. In this role, he is responsible for driving strategic mobility initiatives and key industry partnerships to enable clients the ability to leverage the mobile channel to effectively reach their customers. Bryan’s expertise lies with several Fortune 200 companies in both public and private sectors that focus on business technology and emerging strategies. Bryan demonstrates innovative leadership though public speaking, panel discussions and blogging on the various ways mobility is changing our daily lives.
  • Benjamin Romberg has over twenty five years experience in the IT industry, the last twelve of which have been as a testing professional. He has experience as a test analyst, performance tester, automation specialist, test lead, test manager, test consultant and test executive. He has worked on all types of testing engagements ranging from small web based applications through to core system upgrades. Benjamin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Genetics, a Post Graduate Degree in Software Engineering and an Executive Masters in Business Administration. Benjamin now leads HP’s Testing and Quality Assurance Practice in Asia Pacific and Japan.
  • Over the past 5 years, I have participated in the different stages of delivering Microsoft Enterprise Applications to customers as large as 40.000 concurrent users across Europe with a focus on the public and call center sector. During this period, I worked in numerous technical (lead) and business consultant roles. Using this experience, I am currently a certified Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 expert which specializes in guiding enterprise customers and implementation teams through the process of implementing Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011.
  • Craig has been with HP for 10 years working on the solutioning side as a Solution Architect. Primarily works with Microsoft technologies and has for the better part of 16 years. This past year Craig has worked mostly with Windows AZURE and the mobility side of Windows Phone 7/8 and Android.
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  • Daniel Amor (EMEA, AMOD, Cloud, Portals, Web Apps and SOA domain expert): Daniel has designed, won, led and delivered large-scale, complex applications-related projects by acting as a trusted advisor to clients. Daniel conducts regular training and client-facing sessions, and he has authored six books and numerous articles in European and US-based magazines and newspapers on IT change. He is a regular lecturer and he speaks on Portals, E-Business and Cloud.
  • Global HP Microsoft Business Applications Practice. Microsoft Dynamics CRM subject matter expert. Based in Manchester, United Kingdom. @DarrenCRM on Twitter
  • Solutions Architect working at HP since 2002 with focus on Applications Modernization, located at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Managing Consulting specialising in Business Transformation and Value Management for Defence, Healthcare, Public Sector, Criminal Justice and Telecommunications.
  • Guido Arndt is since May 1997 business consultant and project manager @ Hewlett Packard Enterprise Services. Main focus is strategic and organizational alignment of logistics, sales and production processes in the automotive and manufacturing industry as well as business performance projects in finance and telecommunication industry. Guido has experience as change agent and transformation manager in people-driven merger & aquisition projects focusing government, consulting firms, manufacturing plants and consumer brands.
  • Horia Slușanschi serves as an Agile Coach leading the HP Agile Mentoring Office and the HP Software Engineering Profession. He is passionate about helping teams and leaders to find joy in work in the pursuit of customer delight.
  • CISSP, Open CA Master Architect Technical Consultant with 28+ years of IT experience specializing in Application Security, Solution Architecture, Portals, Social Business, and Integration
  • Jim has been with HP for 33 years and currently leads a global Strategic Capabilities Management team, with a specific focus on Business Analysis and Configuration Management. Jim also manages a team within the US State, Local, and Education division of HP. He was a member of the IIBA committee that created a Business Analyst Competency Model and he participated in the development of IEEE standards. Jim graduated from Harvard University, the University of British Columbia, and Ottawa Theological Hall. He currently lives in Toronto, Canada.
  • SAP Technologist from APPS GD SAP Practice - Manila covering SAP NetWeaver EP, SAP Mobility and general SAP solutions.
  • WW product marketing manager for HP Applications Modernization and Transformation Consulting Services. 35+ years of IT technology and services experience.
  • Laurence has over 35 years experience in the IT industry and has spent 27 years delivering knowledge management (and before that became fashionable, Artificial Intelligence and knowledge-based systems) transformation projects to clients in Government, Industry, Manufacturing and Telecomms industries. He has developed and implemented knowledge management (KM) strategies for HP's clients and for business areas in HP (for BPO and for our Consulting business) and believes that KM strategy is essential for an effective KM practice.
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  • Lori Lewis leads Global Digital and Integrated Marketing for the Applications and Business Services division in HP’s Enterprise Services. The organization is focused on providing clients with enterprise applications services and solutions to solve some of their most pressing business problems. For over 2 decades, she has championed innovative communication approaches to drive and grow market share and build motivated, empowered teams. She is a compelling, passionate ambassador of the art and science of marketing and the amazing results it can achieve when done with integrity and passion. Ms. Lewis’ credentials, track record, and enthusiasm are essential ingredients her team relies on as they work together to establish HP as the undisputed leader in information management and analytics services.
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution architect, C# developer, MBA, husband, father, Auburn man. Follow me on Twitter @lucas_is.
  • CRM enthusiast, avid techie
  • More than 10 years of experience in developing effective and innovative marketing and communication strategies. Recently I have studied the effects of social media and disruptive technology on business, marketing, and culture. Follow me on Twitter: @micaelaraimondi
  • Agile Champion and coach. Passion in software development using lean and agile techniques. Software is a people business!!
  • Have 11 years of experience in SAP Consulting, Solutioning and Account management.
  • I have over 20 years of I.T. experience predominantely in applications development. In addition to my I.T. experience I spent 7 years as the Director of Store Services at Canada's third largest grocery retailer.
  • Shafraz Nasser is the Lead Microsoft CRM Architect with HP Enterprise Services in the South Pacific Microsoft Dynamics Practice. His focus is on selling, architecting and overseeing delivery of Microsoft Dynamics CRM based implementations within New Zealand.
  • Shefali Dua is leading Worldwide BPaaS Strategy & Solution Innovation team at HP Enterprise Services as the Solution Innovation Manager. Her focus is currently assisting in planning and delivery of industry solutions for verticals like social media, big data, mobility and security on the HP Enterprise Cloud offerings for CRM Technologies.
  • Steve Petruno is a Product Manager for HP’s Global Oracle Services with over 24 years experience in the Information Technology industry, project Management, Human Resources, Payroll and Benefits, ERP implementations, upgrades, acquisitions and divestitures.
  • I have worked for HP as a business consultant for seven years, providing process, strategy and business transformation advice in the Financial Services and UK Government sectors. As part of this I have used Lean and Continuous Improvement techniques to assess and improve business performance, ensure regulatory compliance and improve environmental sustainability.
  • Tom is the Global Product Marketing lead for HP's Cloud Applications Services. Tom has over 20 years of experience in information technology and a proven track record for implementing innovative client solutions in several industries including government, healthcare, and telecommunications. He thrives on developing services and solutions which result in business process improvement through greater systems efficiency.
  • Vijay Seetharaman is an Enterprise Architect within HP Enterprise Services - Industry Transformation Consulting practice, focusing on Cloud and Mobility

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