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The Stack Archive

The MGT Act: Are we failing to leverage good code?

Mon 14 Nov 2016

Chris O’Malley, CEO at Compuware, considers the new Modernizing Government Technology Technology Act 2016 and asks whether we risk neglecting reliable and secure Federal systems…

In an effort to reduce the $86 billion a year the United States Federal Government allots to outdated or obsolete IT systems, the U.S. Congress introduced the Modernizing Government Technology Act of 2016, or the MGT Act, to replace those systems with more reliable, secure, modern technology.

The MGT Act allows for funds to be used to improve, retire or replace existing IT systems – taking full stock of what works to better serve Americans and maximise tax dollars. This very necessary funding path will improve the delivery of public services. It also establishes regular reporting processes for tracking project progress.

Further, the Act supports incremental software delivery methodologies, industry best practices and standards, yielding more successful project implementations.

With the MGT Act, the Federal Government is well positioned to implement Agile development processes, with modernised development tools to streamline the delivery of critical federal applications and data.

Agile and Federal

Just as companies must become agile to stay competitive, the Federal Government’s IT teams must continually increase the throughput of application delivery to be as efficient as the companies and citizens it supports. With an Agile approach, the Federal Government can use incremental development processes to produce digital services that benefit citizens based on their feedback.

Code is code, but code that’s proven reliable, secure, performant and efficient is priceless

However, the Act does pose a number of risks. The biggest of these is failing to leverage existing IT assets that remain effective. Rather than assuming all of the Federal Government’s existing IT systems are outdated or obsolete, federal technologists must consider where they can improve well-functioning systems and avoid unnecessary migrations that could prove expensive, risk-prone and time-consuming. Code is code, but code that’s proven reliable, secure, performant and efficient is priceless.

Mainframes for the future

The mainframe is a prime example of an IT system that the Federal Government must work to preserve and modernise to meet future needs. The mainframe platform has been continually innovated to meet the accelerating demands of the global economy and the latest version of the IBM z13  mainframe includes the world’s fastest microprocessor, 2x faster than most common server processors. It also boasts 300% more memory and 100% more bandwidth than the previous model; vector processing for analytics; and innovative architectural improvements to multithreading and parallelism.

An IBM z13 is capable of storing 10 terabytes of memory—enough to load the entire Library of Congress –and can process 2.5 billion transactions per day, or the equivalent of 100 Cyber Mondays every day of the year.

Many of the mainframe’s incredibly complex and critical applications were instituted decades ago. That does not make them bad; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Working code is priceless. Re-platforming these applications and data would cost enormous amounts of time and money, and would pose a major risk of introducing defects or losing key functionality of systems that act as DNA for the Federal Government.

Instead of spending precious tax dollars migrating workloads from the most secure, highest-processing-capacity platform available, the Federal Government should instead be looking to leverage mainframe code and the latest platform in a new way.

The continuing economic and business advantages of the mainframe platform are well understood and appreciated by the private sector. Large enterprises (e.g., 96 of the world’s largest 100 banks and 9 of the world’s 10 largest insurance companies) have been running their most business-critical applications—and processing heaps of sensitive data—on the mainframe for decades, and the majority have already determined its vital relevancy into the future as the digital economy accelerates.

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