Many organizations running IBM mainframesare accelerating their research into cloud migration. In the process, they’re discovering that cloud-based systems can save on operating costs, alleviate the challenges of hiring and retaining the right technical expertise, and increase organizationa agility. At the same time, cloud-based systems meet or even exceed the performance, reliability, and security these organizations expect from their legacy mainframe systems.

Many IBM shops are facing a perfect storm of constraints. As very few new graduates are entering the mainframe job market, competition for the remaining talent is intensifying. Operating costs continue to increase, tipping the scales even further in favor of cloud-based alternatives, where cost savings of 60-80% are not uncommon.

Perhaps most importantly, there are significant opportunity costs associated with legacy technology. Mainframe systems aregenerally more difficult to integrate with distributed systems, offering limited agility when compared to modern platforms.

End-of-life scenarios for many legacy platforms is adding even further to the urgency many mainframe shops are experiencing. In July of 2017, for example, IBM announced their scheduled end of life for the z14 family of mainframes, withdrawing the product frommarketing as of June 30, 2021.

And just last year, 21Century Software Technologies announced a licensing agreement to acquire the source code for IBM’s z/VSE operating system, signaling that IBM intends to discontinue support for z/VSE.

There is countervailing good news, though: fully automated migrationis now a reality, adding fuel to the drive toward cloud migration.

Benefits of AWS for IBM Mainframe Migration

AWS has been a popular platform of choice for many IBM shops as they consider making the move. Amazon has invested heavily in building out the resources needed to support mainframe workloads,and has strongly signaled their commitment to investing further in supporting customers in making the transition.

AWS is a leader in platform-as-a-service. It’s proven to behighly scalable and secure, – so much so that numerous departments of the US government entrust highly sensitive information to the AWS platform under the auspices of Amazon’s GovCloud service. Astadia has planned and implemented mainframe‑to‑AWS modernization projects for national retailers, global publishing organizations, and government agencies.

AWS supports application innovation by enabling extensibility using Java, C#, or other modern programming languages. That opens the door to a significant larger pool of talent, – speeding innovation, lowering costs, and enhancing agility.

Amazon’s cloud native services provide additionalcost savings and flexibility. AWS makes it easy to provision new services and host applications using a simple web-based portal. Adding storage resources or computing capacity can be achieved in mere minutes, without long-term contracts or commitments.

AWS offers an array of options to help organizations replicate or exceed the performance of their formerly mainframe-based applications. Compute and storage can be provisioned as needed, so a CPU-intensive application can benefit from a higher CPU/IO ratio, for example.

Planning Your IBM Mainframe to AWS Migration

Astadia has been helping organizations with mainframe modernization projects for over three decades. No two projects are exactly thesame, so we begin each client engagement with a thorough assessment of the legacy mainframe environment. That process produces a detailed map of mainframe applications, code, and dependencies, – as well as an analysis of database structure and integration with external systems.

At Astadia, we work closely with our clients to understand primary business objectives and constraints, and todevelop an approach to modernization that will best serve them in achieving those goals.

Strategies include replatforming (“lift andshift”), refactoring, rewriting applications, or replacing selected applications with commercially available software. In many cases, we recommend a combination of these strategies.

Each approach presents its own unique challenges. A typical mainframe modernization project is a complex undertaking that requires careful management of the overall process, budgets and timelines.

IBM Mainframe customers must consider whether or not they want to change their user interface, which programming languages and database platforms to use, and what to do with existing applications. In many cases, environmental software for job scheduling, printing, and batch processing can be retired or replaced with modern cloud-native alternatives.

While most organizations prefer to maintain their investments in mission critical applications, ancillary applications may be candidates for replacement by commercially available alternatives. The complexity of mainframe systems calls for a thorough assessment of these details, in the context of an organization’s primary goals and constraints.

FastTrack: Automated Mainframe to Cloud Migration

Fortunately, there are ways to eliminate much of the complexity and risk that has historically been associated with mainframe modernization projects. In 2021, Astadia introduced the FastTrack: a collection of tools that offer a 100% automated migration process.

Astadia FastTrack includes:

  • Code Migration: FastTrack’s code migration tools modernize applications to fit within a modern technology stack. The refactored applications run natively on the target platform, fully accessible within the AWS ecosystem. All future maintenance happens in the target environment using modern DevOps tools.
  • Database Migration: FastTrack enables an iterative migration and re-design process that can incorporate schema changes as part of the database migration process. This makes it possible to take advantage of relational database technology, for example, even where corresponding mainframe data structures lack such capabilities. Because the process is fully automated, the migration team is free to run the same database migration multiple times before eventually settling on a target database design.
  • Functional and Performance Testing: FastTrack develops automated test scripts using actual user activity, then executes those scripts in the target environment. This process can be repeated as many times as desired, ensuring functional equivalence and stress-testing the system to guarantee adequate performance.
  • Data Validation: Source and target databases are compared, taking into account any schema changes designed as part of the migration process. After user scripts are executed, databases can be compared further to fully validate the data.

FastTrack performs these four functions in full alignment with one another. Changes to the database schema, for example, automatically impact the code transformation process and test automation. This eliminatesthe need for manual changes to the target system. The various tools that comprise FastTrack are integrated into a single workstream, so the processes of making changes, re-running data transfers, recording new test scenarios, replaying those tests in the target system, and validating the results can be performed quickly and efficiently.

This is what makes the FastTrack such a game-changing innovation. These four components, working together, ensure that each change implemented as part of the migration process is automatically and accurately implemented across every other stage of the project. Highly automated regression testing can then be performed as many times as is necessary to build complete confidence that the new system will behave in a functionally equivalent manner relative to the legacy system.

Learn More About IBM Mainframe to AWS Migration

To help IBM customers learn more about cloud migration, Astadia recently published our IBM Mainframe to AWS Reference Architecture. It’s available as a free download, offering a thorough overview of the options and considerations involved with IBM to AWS migration.

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