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Origina: We can cut your IBM software maintenance bills in half

And this is how we do it

Sponsored feature We've all read about the £2.3 billion of government IT spend highlighted in last year's Cabinet Office report Organising for Digital Delivery - the £2.3 billion that's dedicated to keeping the lights on for legacy IT systems. And in every discussion you read, there's an unspoken assumption that legacy IT back much of the transformative work needed to enable the digital delivery of government services.

But this assumption doesn't necessarily tell the full story, according to Origina, the third-party IBM software support and maintenance provider (TPSM), whose client roster includes the Department of Work and Pensions.

We must assume that a reasonable proportion of the £2.3 billion is spent on maintaining software, and traditionally public sector organizations have had only a few ways they can choose to deal with this legacy software - they can continue to pay software vendor maintenance contracts, or they can go without a maintenance contract at their own risk, or they can decommission it.

However, decommissioning is much easier said than done. For example, the UK public sector runs many critical applications on IBM software and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. So how can the Government reduce its hefty IBM maintenance contract bills - and without impacting support?

Step off the vendor escalator

Rob Paddon, Origina territory manager for UK and Ireland, explains that, historically, vendor software maintenance contracts have put organizations on "a never ending escalator."

"These contracts effectively say 'whilst you theoretically own the software (in the sense of having bought a perpetual licence for the software), we'll tell you how much to pay us for maintenance and we will heavily constrain what that maintenance is about. If you are not on a supported version that is defined by us, if you are not working in an environment surrounding that software defined by us, then all bets are off," he says. So you stay on the escalator, because getting off means risking the systems that underpin the business or an enormous project to replace them. 

However, a fourth option - independent third-party software maintenance from a trustworthy provider such as Origina - has much to recommend, in terms of savings, flexibility, expert support, assistance with migrations or decommissions and the like. Paddon says that just in terms of headline maintenance costs, third-party support and maintenance can be 30 to 60 percent cheaper a year than the vendor service. One global insurance provider even found that by choosing Origina it saved 70 percent of what it would have spent with IBM for software support over a four-year stretch.

Business models are changing

Aside from cost, there are other reasons why the switch to third-party support and maintenance can make more sense for many organizations running legacy software, especially in the public sector. You just have to look at how the business models of large IT suppliers have changed in recent years.

Origina specializes in IBM software support, maintenance and security. Its story began when one of its founders, Tomás O'Leary, spotted that many companies wanted to move away from IBM's hefty support and maintenance contracts and didn't know where to go for help. His recognition of the opportunity fortunately came at a time when IBM had let go of thousands of engineers, giving Origina access to an experienced and expert workforce. Says Paddon: "There is a large pool of very skilled people out there who have effectively left IBM, but who have 20 years' experience in supporting legacy systems. Many of them are on our books. It would be very expensive to employ them directly, but you get access to their skills by using third-party maintenance." 

Upsides of independent third-party maintenance

Independent third-party maintenance means accepting that you will no longer have access to newer versions of software. There are upsides to this. Origina can make your legacy software secure and protect it from vulnerabilities, and - as Paddon points out - it means "you do not need to spend time, money, effort and resource on an ever-increasing technical debt burden in order to keep that software operational." 

He adds: "We work on interoperability, aiming to allow the software to continue to work even as you upgrade the database or the OS that it runs on." It's also running at a very low operational day-to-day cost so you can put it to the back of your transformational queue. "You know it's secure, you know it works. you know it does the job," says Paddon, "you can then work on the stuff that you know you absolutely need to shift to different architectures." 

Origina has found this is a huge motivation for people in organizations with lots of legacy software and who are trying to work out how they can achieve the transformations they've been tasked with. They use third-party maintenance as a strategic play that allows them to take legacy IT off their do-to lists for a while. Origina already helps some large central government departments in this way. Paddon adds: "It means you can choose what you do with the software, and when you choose to do it. And you can do it securely, in a very stable way, as opposed to following the vendor way or the highway."

IBM's strategy and future direction is also pushing its customers to consider the benefits of third-party support and maintenance, says Mark O'Neill, Origina's head of sales for northern Europe. In recent years IBM has spun out its managed services business Kyndryl and offloaded much of its software to HCL. OpenShift is now the linchpin of Big Blue's overall multi-cloud strategy following its $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat in 2019. 

Says O'Neill: "Unless you want to go to hybrid cloud with IBM Cloud Pak then you risk being de-prioritised as a customer by IBM. All IBM's innovation and investment is in this new world that it needs to make work. IBM is trying to drive customers in a certain direction, but many customers want to continue to use their existing software portfolio for as long as they need to. It's creating tension." The strategy means that for many IBM customers their historical ability to do a relatively low-touch upgrade has gone.

Not just break and fix

O'Neill reiterates that Origina's core strength is its people: "There are fantastic engineers who've worked in IBM, or in the IBM ecosystem for 15-plus years, and we brought them into the Origina team. They have deep product expertise.""the best of the best."  

Origina assigns engineers - Origina calls them global IBM experts - to customers on a named basis, he adds, so it's a far cry from an anonymous and commoditized offshore support function that is the common mode of vendor customer support: "We're absolutely the opposite of that," says O'Neill. "Every customer for every product gets a team of these people who spend time learning about their environment, building relationships with their technical teams. It's really quite intimate."

In addition to people, Origina offers 24/7 support. Customer support managers and customer success managers are assigned directly to accounts, and technical architects work with clients to understand their roadmaps. Paddon adds: "We have capability, methodology and process to secure, stabilize and tune our customers' environments. It's not just reactive break and fix stuff. We put our arms around a piece of software, working with the customer, with a managed service provider and outsourcer, to drive the roadmap in the direction they want to take it at the lowest possible unitary cost."

While Origina specializes in IBM, increasingly drivers like sustainability, environmental impact and the right to repair mean that third-party support and maintenance is in the ascendent. Says Paddon: "There's a long road to travel, but people are asking why they, as IT consumers, should be bound to always buy new. It's part of the wider approach that wants to break the hold that vendors have over information assets that their customers own."

Sponsored by Origina.

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