Computer Business Review

DWP Wraps Up Mammoth “Job Seeker’s” Mainframe to X86 Migration

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has successfully shifted its Job Seeker’s Allowance Payment System (JSAPS) from its mainframe to an X86 architecture running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux — a mammoth task involving reams of legacy code, some of which was written in the 1960s.

The re-platforming concluded with the final migration of 54 databases containing 6.3 billion records from the original database/s to a “leading modern relational database management system” in under 24 hours

JSAPS (introduced in the late 1990s) was based on an IT code set that had been designed in the 1960s, with code added over the years as new technical and policy requirements changed. It has over 50,000 end users. The replacement system includes 7.2 million lines of code, and 29,592 batch processes.

That’s according to IT firm Advanced, which supported the DWP with the move. The shift has halved how long it takes to process applications, Advanced said: the first full working day of activities on the new system was completed in two hours and 11 minutes as opposed to a previous five hours, allowing the DWP to issue 200,000 individual payments worth over £53 million.

Mark Bell, VME-R Deputy Director at the Department for Work and Pensions said: “This has been widely recognised as one of the best technical achievements delivered by DWP Digital for many years and as ground-breaking against wider industry standards. It also enables us to make further digital enhancements to benefit millions of UK citizens.”

Tim Jones, MD of Application Modernisation, at Advanced told Computer Business Review: “The programme to move DWP’s applications to a new platform is part of a major modernisation initiative to safeguard and improve the systems responsible for a £170 billion of welfare payments per annum.

“The scale, complexity and importance of the project is potentially the largest of its kind to adopt an automated re-platform approach.

To provide an idea of scope of the project…

  • The Job Seekers Allowance application is the seventh DWP’s application to ‘go live’ as part of a much larger programme of work to decommission its mainframe which started in earnest with Advanced in August 2017.
  • Each system provides a mission critical service and as such has national ‘critical asset’ status.
    • C. 25+ Million Lines of Code converted using an automated approach
    • All code successfully translated to a modern code set and a modern integrated development environment (including a major language translation for critical code)
    • The migration of 9 billion data rows all converted, loaded and verified
  • Only three systems currently remain on the mainframe as the programme enters its final phase.

He told us in an emailed answer to several questions: “There have been technical and delivery related challenges but these have been well managed and prepared for. The biggest challenge was to manage a large-scale delivery with multiple ‘swim streams’. Something the department took on themselves and managed magnificently as part of building their own internal capability.

Advanced’s Tim Jones added: “Some particular technical achievements that come during the JSAPS project in particular include:

1) The complex database mapping and use of features such as partitioning and Index Organized Tables which resulted in better online and batch performance than on the original mainframe application. No changes were needed to the converted application code to meet performance targets.

2) Converting untyped data with COBOL computational items and EBCDIC characters into equivalent ASCII data.

3) Full byte-by-byte reconciliation between the original database and the go forward database ensured any database conversion issues were resolved well before cutover completely de-risking the implementation into live.”

Now that the JSAPS re-platforming is complete, the DWP will focus on completing the re-platforming of the last three remaining legacy applications – the State Pension Services, Disability Living Allowance and Income Support, which combined will benefit over 18 million citizens.

Advanced’s £40 million software licencing agreement inked in 2018 with the DWP was its largest contract to-date. The company is the UK’s third largest provider of business software and services with a £254 million annual turnover, 16,000 customers and 2,200 employees.

See also: UK’s “Advanced” Buys Dallas’ Modern Systems, Adds Mainframe Expertise, US Footprint