Mainframe, Meet Web: Modernizing the Alaska DMV
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Mainframe, Meet Web: Modernizing the Alaska DMV

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In Brief

Alaska’s DMV faced a daunting challenge—an outdated mainframe application that hindered compliance with Federally mandated RealID and boat titling changes. Resource Data built a modernized web application, enhancing UX and ensuring regulatory conformity and long-term maintainability. The new licensing system consists of over 500,000 lines of code and processed 11,000 transactions in its first week alone.

Alaska DMV Modernizes Mainframe System for Enhanced User Experience and Compliance

Driver’s licenses, ID cards, and vehicle registration are essential services in every state. The Alaska DMV teamed up with Resource Data to modernize their system, replacing an outdated mainframe application with a state-of-the art web application. This upgrade enabled them to enhance user interfaces and tools, resulting in increased employee satisfaction and an improved customer experience while complying with Federal requirements for RealID and inter-state data exchanges.

While the legacy system was functional, it posed challenges due to its limited modifiability and outdated user interface. This made it difficult for new employees to grasp. Alaska DMV was also facing imminent major changes, including RealID and boat titling. By modernizing the system and adopting current technology, they aimed to achieve a more adaptable and scalable system for future modifications. Additionally, this move would facilitate the recruitment and retention of development staff and simplify the training process for customer service representatives.

The new Alaska DMV system, comprising of over 500,000 lines of code, 17,000+ unit tests, and 20 modules, was successfully launched on time and within budget. In its inaugural week, it successfully processed 11,000 unique customer transactions. The new Alaska DMV system not only streamlines operations but also ensures long-term maintainability.

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Key Takeaways

Replacing 30 year old systems takes careful planning and adaptation.

  1. Course corrections to stay on-time and within-budget

    Six months in, we conducted an internal assessment and realized we were off track. We collaborated with the DMV to devise a new strategy. By prioritizing a standardized architecture and common libraries, we leveraged existing code. This significantly boosted project velocity, launching the project on-time and within-budget.

  2. Proactively plan integrations for sufficient testing

    DMV systems play a crucial role in sharing vital information with various state and federal entities, such as the Department of Public Safety, the court system, and the Coast Guard. By proactively identifying these essential integrations, we allocated sufficient time to complete them and conduct mandatory integration testing.

  3. Coordinate and communicate for accuracy

    While the State of Alaska possessed the expertise in licensing, titling, and registration, Resource Data’s team was responsible for implementing the new system. By eliminating obstacles, we facilitated direct communication between module leads and State experts, enabling us to translate the existing system into the new one with accuracy.

DMV_Small Quote-8

Resource Data staff were not only professional, knowledgeable and highly skilled, but also friendly and easy to work with—the latter being a key consideration on long and complex, challenging and sometimes stressful projects.

Patrick Brosnan, Former Head of IT, AK DMV


Legacy, legacy, legacy – 30 years and Counting

The legacy system worked. Alaska was issuing driver’s licenses and, ID cards, as well as vehicle registrations. However, State and Federal requirements for state issued identification and vehicle registration continued to evolve with ever increasing demands for increased security and reliable information sharing.

The challenges of finding Natural / COBOL / Adabas developers, the sheer complexity of a system that had evolved organically with minimal documentation for 30 years, and the increasing costs of supporting the aging mainframe infrastructure meant the legacy system was quickly becoming unaffordable and unsupportable. The implementation of RealID was also going to require significant modifications and the legacy system was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and enhance.

Simultaneously, customers expected web interfaces that were both user-friendly and high quality when engaging with the DMV for license and registration applications and renewals. However, delivering these features in the outdated mainframe environment would be a daunting and costly endeavor.

The Solution

Unleashing the Power of Modern Web Architecture

Resource Data collaborated with business subject matter experts and delved into the legacy code instead of relying on documentation. This approach allowed us to comprehend the functionalities of the existing system and determine the requirements for the new system. We designed a new data model, system architecture, and application standards to support the workflows and critical functionalities.

Our dedicated team of 25 developers utilized .Net Core and SQL Server to construct the new high availability web application. While we designed modern and user-friendly interfaces, we also accommodated the DMV’s request to support the mainframe function keys and menu systems. This minimized the amount of user training required during the transition. The new tools were swiftly adopted, and long-term employees had the option to continue using the old methods while familiarizing themselves with the new features.

Data exchanges play a crucial role in DMV systems, involving agencies such as the US Coast Guard, Fish and Game, law enforcement, and the national inter-state data exchange (AAMVA). Whenever possible, we developed APIs to facilitate these data exchanges, but always prioritized meeting the specific needs of the requesting agency. Additionally, we seamlessly integrated with state systems, including MyAlaska, the State’s portal for Alaskan residents.