With the economy beginning to improve, companies are crawling out of their bunkers and realizing they need new capabilities to compete in the post-recession world. Suddenly mainframe modernization is a hot buzzword. It even is being featured at Innovate in June.
To many, mainframe modernization means ditching the mainframe for sexy, low cost distributed x86-based systems with VMware or Microsoft’s Hype-V. The low cost of acquisition alone, they argue, makes this type of modernization a no-brainer.
However, the faster, easier, and, ultimately, cheaper way to modernize the organization’s capabilities is through the existing mainframe. This is where the organization’s most valuable business logic, proven functionality, and data live. Trying to duplicate all that and build a secure, 99.999% available x86-based environment is a losing proposition. Rather, modernize the mainframe itself by deploying that logic and functionality in new ways and making that data accessible in more ways to more people for new purposes.
The old approach to mainframe modernization entailed unleashing an army of DBAs and system programmers to tweak database tables and CICS to squeeze yet another smidgen of performance out of the mainframe. This was tedious, labor-intensive work, and the results were far from transformative.
By contrast, today’s mainframe modernization promises to be thoroughly transformative by delivering System z functionality in new ways. This involves anything from DB2 financial data appearing on mobile phones to CICS data being mixed with distributed data in mashups so a worker can see, say, all aspects of a customer’s relationship on one graphical screen. Now that’s transformative.
Mainframe batch processes can be modernized too. As IBM says in a Redbook titled Batch Modernization on z/OS: “New functional and non-functional requirements might require changes in the way batch is organized as well as require new technologies.” IBM calls it batch modernization. This is likely to be more operational than transformative. You can find the Batch Modernization Redbook here.
IBM, however, has been cheerleading a vision of mainframe modernization that revolves around SOA, Linux, Java, cloud computing, and a slew of web 2.0 technologies involving WebSphere, Lotus, and Rational as well as Linux and the System z. Now almost the entire third party ecosystem of System z tool providers is jumping on the mainframe modernization bandwagon. This includes GT Software, Rocket/Seagull, SOA Software, CA, and others.
SOA and services sit at the heart of IBM’s mainframe modernization vision. The basic idea calls for identifying and wrapping specific chunks for business functionality as services. It works. Sun Trust used SOA to modernize its System z for mobile banking.
Upgraded System z assist processors present another path to modernization. Specifically, adding an IFL opens up the mainframe to a wide range of Linux applications. Deploying a zAAP enables a System z to run Java applications. IBM has slashed prices on assist processors, cutting the cost in half in most cases. Software licenses treat assist processors very favorably.
Combining Linux and Java applications on the System z with WebSphere or Lotus Live open up other modernization opportunities. To make this easier and cheaper, IBM is offering System z Solution Editions that include the necessary hardware, software, and middleware greatly discounted—sort of mainframe modernization in a box.
With signs that the recession is winding down, this is a good time to think about mainframe modernization. You’re going to need to compete, and IBM is eager to deal.