City looks to save $850K a year by leaving mainframe behind

The City of Fort Worth, Texas, has successfully completed the first phases of its modernization program that is expected to save the city $850,000 a year by moving mission-critical applications off of an aging mainframe system.

Fort Worth’s IT solutions department will move all applications to a new distributed platform based on the Microsoft Windows operating system and Dell servers. Integrating key applications, such as traffic signal management and jury services, was a key step in the process to enable these applications to execute in the new server environment, according to Mark DeBoer, the city's senior IT manager.

Phase two will involve replacing the city’s financial applications with a commercial enterprise resource planning system that will run on the new distributed platform. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2015, when the mainframe will be turned off.

The IT solutions department is attempting to offer innovative solutions to city departments so they can provide high-quality services to residents. Fort Worth is currently the fifth largest city in Texas and the 16th largest in the country. The administration employs more than 6,000 people and serves a population of approximately 750,000 residents, estimated to reach 1.2 million by 2030.

Initially, city officials considered an in-house solution to convert residual applications to Microsoft .NET and SQL Server, but this option required burdening the already busy staff with an additional workload that they couldn’t handle, DeBoer said.

“We wanted to move across the applications without much change," he said, noting that it was important to maintain user involvement and keep applications in the style users were familiar with.

As a result, IT solutions turned to a systems integrator and Micro Focus because the company provided a way to move the applications with minimal disruption and change. By implementing Micro Focus Enterprise Developer and Enterprise Server, the city has been able to seamlessly move the residual mission-critical applications and keep them running in the style that users are familiar with.

Involving the Micro Focus services team also allowed the city to complete the first step of the modernization process within project budget and time constraints, DeBoer said. Moving the residual applications to the Windows-based platform took about 18 months.

“By implementing an alternative infrastructure based around commodity servers, we will be able to reduce ongoing IT costs as well as equip our staff with the skills needed to debug programs faster and actually improve application performance,” DeBoer said.

“Additionally, this exercise has given our programmers a way to become familiar with the distributed environment and understand the difference between the Windows server and the mainframe ahead of the major ERP deployment, an enormous advantage as we embark on this extensive project,” he said.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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