Mainframe Modernization to Face the Future

September 7, 2020

IBA Group
Sergey Beganski

Mainframes are generally characterized as outdated, legacy technology. Yet, they remain a core element in business IT systems.

The mainframe environment is resilient. Mainframes also remain unrivaled in security and input-output operations, which is important for transactional applications. Moreover, the mainframe serves as the foundation on which businesses can build new digital capabilities.

Evolving to keep pace with change

However, mainframes must evolve to keep pace with changing business demands. A business must update its legacy mainframe capabilities to remain competitive.

Modernization initiatives should address areas related to mainframe interfacing, code, and maintainability to support business growth. These focus areas will enhance the usability of existing applications.

Modernization also frees IT resources to focus on innovation instead of mainframe maintenance. And extending the working life of infrastructure will extract extra value from technology investments.

Furthermore, modernization is less costly than rip-and-replace digital migrations. This approach preserves and improves the functionality in current systems. As such, these benefits offer businesses a low-risk, cost-effective approach to digital transformation.

Mainframe modernization paves the path to full cloud enablement as migrating to a cloud-based platform will unlock access to new technologies. More system integration opportunities also become possible.

Given the strong business case, many organizations want to speed up mainframe modernization initiatives. However, radical or ‘big bang’ overhauls pose risks.

Rather than an all-or-nothing approach, businesses would benefit from modernizing legacy IT incrementally. Taking small steps allows companies to embrace the most appropriate approach. This includes leveraging suitable tools and technologies to modernize mainframe infrastructure and applications.

Automated testing can reduce costs

For example, automated testing can be invaluable during cloud migrations. Deploying changes often causes errors. But automated tests help to detect bugs earlier. These tests are also more thorough than manual processes. As such, they can reduce human error. Automated testing and deployment can also reduce costs and migration periods.

Furthermore, an incremental approach delivers gradual benefits and reduces risk. This approach also acknowledges that modernization is a journey, not a destination.

Modernizing a legacy mainframe application by migrating it to either a virtualized or hybrid IT environment offers extra benefits. These include improved access and the ability to exploit open source solutions.

Web services improve user experience

Cloud enablement allows business to provision web-based access via modern interfaces beyond green-screen applications. This improves the user experience and this functionality gives users easy access to data and host-based processing to support shifting work models.

Once in the cloud, mainframes have the flexibility to seamlessly integrate all parts of an organization. This interoperability creates opportunities to include mainframe technology as part of the new era of rapid application delivery.

Open source creates more possibilities

Organizations can also reduce risk by migrating to a modern open source-based environment where there is no requirement for recompilation or reformatting.

Once in an open source environment, businesses can convert individual programs into modern languages. They can then leverage various tools to alter the trajectory of ongoing application development and exploitation.

The new Zowe open source software framework, for example, aims to bridge the gap between modern applications and the mainframe. Zowe standardizes mainframe operating systems to make them more accessible. This feature also makes it easier to deploy applications on them.

Zowe also facilitates interoperability by using the latest web technologies, products, and solutions from multiple vendors. This allows developers to use familiar, industry-standard, open source tools to access mainframe resources and services. The result is a more consistent user experience.

This approach allows the new generation of IT workers to acquire technical skills across the board which allows them to work with many systems, including mainframes.

This will prove beneficial because young developers are reluctant to learn mainframe computer languages and technologies because they perceive these as outdated. IBA began developing young talent early on to address this challenge and support the aging generation of mainframers.

As a company of nearly 3,000 people, the IBA Group has been working with mainframe software since the company’s launch in 1993. With 30 years of experience in mainframe systems, IBA mainframers effectively bridge the legacy of the past with the landscape of the future.

Today, IBA’s team of over 400 multi-generational mainframe experts modernize mainframe systems by applying these new technologies and approaches.

Stay tuned for more information about how mainframe modernization can benefit your business and read about mainframe myths.

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