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Thursday, 21 March 2024 11:45

Lowered TCO by 90% - COBOL to Java on AWS for the U.S. Air Force

The U.S. Air Force's Integrated Logistics System - Supply (ILS-S), has been a cornerstone of military logistics for over five decades. This complex and mission-critical system, which tracks more than 35 million assets valued at $18 billion across 1.7 million warehouse locations, has been a significant part of the Air Force's operations, supporting 18,000 users and over 100,000 consumers of ILS-S information across 250 military installations.

Historically, the Air Force had attempted to modernize and move away from expensive Unisys Mainframes without success. Their earlier endeavors earned the system the nickname "The Beast" and was featured in a 2003 book on legacy system modernization by the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon.

However, the outcomes changed dramatically when TSRI, NTT Data, and CGI leveraged TSRI’s model- and rule-based transformation and refactoring solution, JANUS® Studio, to modernize the 1.3 million lines of COBOL to Java and migrate the system to an elastic, secure, cloud-native environment on AWS GovCloud.

Watch Paul Saladna, Lead Architect at NTT Data discuss what made this project so successful!

In the initial phase, TSRI converted the 1.3 million lines of Unisys COBOL to modern, maintainable Java and the teams migrated the system to an on-prem mid-tier environment. In a second phase, the application underwent further automated refactoring by the teams for code quality and performance and then migrated to the AWS GovCloud, gaining the benefits of a cloud-native, scalable multi-tier environment like setting up DevSecOps and CI/CD pipelines and providing network interoperability. 

This transformative project marked a significant milestone in automated modernization and cloud-native deployment for the Air Force and has been heralded as a huge success by the USAF, setting a precedent for future modernizations.

All told, we started at $30 million prior to the modernization and ended at about $3 million post-modernization; a pretty significant cost savings!”

Paul, who started with ILS-S back in 2003, played a pivotal role in transitioning the system from a fragmented, green-screen-based setup to a unified cloud-computing solution. His leadership was instrumental in steering the project from its inception, through its on-prem modernization phase, to its ultimate migration to a cloud-native architecture on AWS.

The modernization's driving forces were multifaceted, focusing on reducing infrastructure costs, mitigating COBOL developer dependency, and enhancing platform stability and capabilities. The Air Force required a fast and seamless transition with no loss in functionality or performance, despite the concurrent challenges posed by active military engagements.

The decision to adopt AWS GovCloud was influenced by the Air Force's existing computational frameworks and the natural fit of AWS for Java/Python-based projects, given its extensive use and the associated economies of scale.

TSRI was chosen for this monumental task through a rigorous selection process, showcasing unparalleled automation capabilities and a thorough understanding of the legacy COBOL code, which set them apart from other vendors.

“TSRI demonstrated the highest degree of conversion capabilities and past performance and represented the lowest risk for us to achieve mission objectives. Really, they stood out.”

The outcomes of this modernization are profound, achieving a 90% reduction in total costs—from $30 million annually to approximately $3 million post-modernization. Additionally, the project facilitated the reassignment of COBOL developers to roles where their deep understanding of the system's logic and business requirements could be leveraged for the modernized ILS-S system.

The modernized ILS-S now boasts a remarkable 99.999% uptime, a testament to the enhanced platform stability and capabilities achieved through this project. This success has prompted the Business and Enterprise Systems Directorate (BES) of the USAF to replicate this modernization model across other critical systems, with TSRI currently working on the modernization of the Air Force's wholesale Stock Control System.

This journey from COBOL to Java, culminating in a truly cloud-native deployment on AWS, not only signifies a technological leap for the Air Force but also exemplifies a model of collaboration, innovation, and strategic foresight in modernizing critical defense systems.

To learn more about the project, read the case study

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Additional Sources:

  • https://federalnewsnetwork.com/it-modernization/2022/11/lessons-learned-from-air-forces-ils-s-logistics-system-modernization/
  • https://www.aflcmc.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2888877/system-tracks-every-item-in-the-air-force-inventory/
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