Modernizing the mainframe

  • Veröffentlicht am 24, April 2023
  • Geschätzte Lesezeit: 4 Minuten
Mainframe Modernization

Mainframe computers have been the lifeblood of countless everyday operations for over 60 years. They have powered mission-critical applications for industries central to the functioning of the global economy. Many businesses still run their core applications and data on mainframes today. 80% of the top 10 insurers and 90% of the top 50 banks continue to process vital workloads on these systems. In other words, almost every time we withdraw money or make a wire transfer, the transaction is handled by a mainframe.

For decades, these systems have provided high reliability, outstanding security, and strong performance. Many critics who predicted the demise of this technology ended up eating their own words. But times are changing, and the drawbacks of these IT dinosaurs are becoming ever more apparent. It's time to challenge the Status Z.

The challenges with mainframes
Beside their well-known strengths, mainframes also have some notable weaknesses:

  1. Cost: Mainframes are significantly more expensive than other computing platforms. The cost of hardware – whether through leasing or purchase – is consistently high. Software licensing can sometimes come as an unpleasant surprise since such expenses are often highly volatile and hard to calculate. In addition, maintenance costs can soar whenever additional CPU capacity or memory needs to be added.
  2. Workforce: It is becoming increasingly difficult to find qualified staff who can keep a mainframe up and running. 10 years ago, Micro Focus estimated that about 2 million people worldwide were actively working with COBOL – a number that has rapidly declined within the last decade and will continue to do so. In addition, a younger generation of programmers is unfamiliar with these legacy systems because mainframe programming languages are no longer taught at universities. And with the skills shortage, finding experts to keep a mission-critical system running presents a major challenge.
  3. Agility: Mainframes are designed to handle specific types of workloads. As a result, adding new functionality or upgrading existing software typically involves significant time and effort. In a competitive business environment that requires short innovation cycles and speed to market, these monoliths often represent bottlenecks that hinder agility. And since mainframe technology is proprietary, it is difficult to integrate with other systems or applications.

Migrating mainframe workload
The problems with old mainframes are not new, but they became much more apparent during the Corona pandemic. From one day to the next, companies realized that their heavy reliance on legacy mainframes was preventing them from meeting unexpected business needs, generating new revenue streams and keeping pace with the competition. From then on, the popularity of migrating mainframe workloads to the cloud skyrocketed.

Microsoft Azure, in particular, is a platform that offers substantial benefits for companies willing to make the switch. Microsoft has invested heavily in recent years to build the resources needed to support all types and sizes of mainframe workloads. Asysco, for example, now part of Avanade, was able to deliver more than 18,000 MIPS on a single system and over 28,000 on a multi-server system – a new high for mainframe workloads in the cloud. Azure also offers the integration of technologies such as AI and Advanced Analytics, which open up new business opportunities. Data security, built-in redundancy and default settings are also important components of Microsoft's Cloud.

How to reap the benefits of the cloud
Security, performance, reliability: All the technical goodies that used to be a USP of mainframe technology are now also available in the cloud – at a lower price, easier to manage, and more agile. But the path to these benefits is not easy. Migrating an organization's business-critical workload to the cloud is a task IT departments aren't advised to tackle alone. Many banks and insurances have slimmed-down IT departments that can't afford to commit 40% of their staff to a project that could leave them unable to handle their usual workload. And where is the sense in becoming an expert in something you'll probably only need to do once in your career?

Getting to a digital solution that can match and extend the benefits of a mainframe requires an experienced partner who has performed such a migration many times before. Since many mainframe applications consist of millions of lines of code, it is important to entrust your project to a contractor who can also offer a high level of automation. Another important factor in migration success is testing capabilities. Companies need a partner that can ensure the new system is identical to the previous mainframe system in terms of functionality and performance. Last but not least, this partner should also understand that a mainframe migration is not just a technology project but requires carefully measured change management to guarantee the transition from legacy to digital technology is a true success.

Interested in discovering more? Join our webinar on 11 May to learn how to restructure your mainframe and overcome your migration challenges in the banking and insurance sector. Our experts look forward to meeting you.

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