Life assurance and pension group Irish Life has improved the performance of its mainframe apps by rehosting them in a Windows environment.

The move is said to have reduced operating expenses by up to 80 percent, delivered productivity gains and improved agility for future innovation.

To support the move Irish Life is using Micro Focus Enterprise Developer and Enterprise Server. The system allows the company to move applications from a mainframe to a Windows server environment, to take advantage of the contemporary architecture and its associated flexibility, and to help deliver savings.

Barry Ryan, chief technical architect at Irish Life, said: "By moving to a different platform better suited to our needs we have reduced operating expenses, increased responsiveness to the business, and realised improved efficiencies."

Ryan said: "Productivity gains include completing key batch processes in 25 percent of their original runtime, which gives us additional flexibility around business operating hours, reduces the need for out-of-hours cover and removes the risk of early morning system unavailability."

Problem solving has also improved, he said, with developers spotting and locating issues "much faster with the new, intuitive, visual programming technology".

Dave Cooper, retail IT architect at Irish Life, said the firm wanted to access a range of language options including the flexibility to intermingle legacy COBOL with other .NET languages to "get the best of both worlds" - "contemporary technologies integrated with tried and trusted mainframe application code".

He added: "We use Microsoft Visual Studio for everything we do in different languages, and using a consistent Integrated Developer Environment (IDE) framework for our COBOL applications via the Micro Focus solution means our whole development team is delivering higher quality code in shorter timeframes."

Irish Life's key insurance systems had intellectual property captured in over three million lines of COBOL code, which meant reusing its existing code was a safer, more stable option than alternative re-write or packaged application options, said the company.

Reusing its COBOL code also meant the company retained its subject matter experts, so its IT team could perform most of the modernisation and optimisation work themselves.

In addition, re-using COBOL within the Visual Studio IDE framework made up-skilling Irish Life's team of 26 life administration developers simpler. It has also been easier to attract new talent with no previous COBOL experience into the team.