Are Code Freezes a Thing of the Past?
October 5, 2022 Alex Woodie
After months of work on your modernization project, the consultant helping you is almost done. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the consultant is now asking you to put a code freeze on changes to your old application. It’s not clear whether the code freeze will lasts two months or two years, but it’s absolutely necessary, you’re told.
That’s the scenario that many enterprises have faced over the years. Whether it’s a monolithic RPG application running on IBM i or a distributed Node.js application running in the cloud, if there are tight dependencies in the components that are being opened up and updated, they must be frozen while the developers make sure that the new system has 100 percent of the functionality of the old system – plus the new stuff that you’re adding, of course.
Miten Marfatia, the CEO of modernization tool vendor EvolveWare, has seen this scenario play out many times with the mainframe customers that he has worked with over the past 20 years.
“Previously, what used to happen is once you started a modernization project, you have to freeze your system,” he says. “Now, if you have to freeze it for two to three months, I think that’s tolerable. So when your running them in parallel and you have enough test cases designed then you can run them in parallel for two to three months.”
However, problems start when the code freeze goes on much longer than that. When the code freeze starts to creep toward double-digit months or even into multiple years, then it starts to put a serious dent in the productivity of the developers. Now, the developers must stop making any changes to the code, including code updates that reflect changes to business policies made by the company.
During the code freeze, the company and its developers are entirely at the mercy of the outside consultants who have been hired to update or modernize the application. It’s the final stage of the project after the new system has been tested and is now running in parallel with the new system, and it’s intended to flush out and eliminate any differences that may have cropped up during the project.
“The traditional way of doing things was, here is my code, come back with my results,” Marfatia says. “Well, I’m giving you my code, so from that day onward, if I make any changes, I have to tell the company I’m working with, say hey I made some changes. And they will say at some point in time, that if you want us to finish, you have got to freeze your code.”
That’s the sort of scenario that EvolveWare hopes to prevent with the new offering it unveiled yesterday. Dubbed Agile Business Rules Extraction, or Agile BRE, the new software is designed to allow customers to update business policies and modernize applications concurrently, without the need for a code freeze.
“We have come up with a process whereby you need not place your business system or business policies on hold,” Marfatia tells IT Jungle. “You can continue to change out your policies in your software and the work can continue in terms of the modernization effort going on.”
According to EvolveWare, Agile BRE allows companies to make changes to existing code at any point in the rules extraction process, with minimal impact on work already performed. The company estimates that the new offering will cut the project time by 60 percent, which will translate into a willingness for organizations to embark on bigger modernization and digital transformation projects.
The company says Agile BRE, which is a component of its Intellisys suite of code modernization tools, enables code updates to be transferred automatically into the extracted business rules repository without affecting the rules that are not impacted by the updates. If there are rules impacted by the updates, then a report is generated highlighting the changes.
The new Agile BRE function allows Intellisys users to extract rules from several applications at the same time. For each application, it will create a repository for the documentation of the business rules, including diagrams, reports, database details, and critical dependencies, the company says.
The software facilitates application understanding among technical and non-technical users by presenting business logic in formats like pseudo code, flowcharts, decision tables, and business analyst languages, the company says. It also keeps track of all activities and allows consultants to revert back to previous states, if necessary, while also allowing extracted rules to be moved to third-party platforms like Drools, a Java-based business rules management system, the company says.
One consultancy that’s excited about the new functionality is Deloitte Consulting. “Agile BRE will revolutionize application modernization and empower transformation of entire portfolios without delays and constraints,” Keith Cox, Deloitte Consulting’s managing director for application modernization and migration said in an EvolveWare press release. “We are very excited about this enhancement and look forward to continued success from our strategic partnership with EvolveWare.”
Agile BRE and Intellisys support more than 20 languages. While the company supports COBOL on IBM i, it does not yet support RPG. That feature is currently under development and is expected soon, Marfatia says.