Mainframes have come a long way, with top vendors offering better integration, stronger security, and support for AI technology than ever before. Yet despite these improvements, mainframe systems remain largely isolated from modern cloud-first technologies. They require esoteric skills, specialized applications, and a collection of bridge technologies to connect their data and workflows to external systems.

Is your organization interested in implementing AI? That’s a process-intensive technology, and likely to drive your mainframe operating costs through the roof.

Do you want to use a cloud analytics platform to analyze transactions and detect fraud in real time? You’ll need a robust real-time data replication tool to make that happen.

Is your organization using ITSM to monitor systems, identify root causes, and prevent issues proactively? That’s hard to do when your mainframe systems are operating as an island unto themselves.

Achieving digital transformation on the mainframe is possible, but it comes with significant headwinds. The bottom line: today’s mainframes are an evolution of legacy technologies. Unfortunately, they come with many of the same inherent limitations as their predecessors, and that hinders agility and innovation.

The Role of Mainframes in Today's Digital Landscape

Mainframes have a reputation for performance, security, and stability that no other platform could match until relatively recently. Over the past decade, though, cloud platforms have emerged as the computing backbone of choice for most organizations, especially where greenfield initiatives are concerned.

Mainframe shops, meanwhile, are increasingly squeezed by a trifecta of challenges:

  • Mainframe operating costs have increased considerably. Moreover, they are expected to continue rising, as vendors lose customers and suffer negative economies of scale.
  • The shrinking mainframe talent pool is making it harder and harder to attract and retain experienced professionals with relevant skills. As a generation of mainframe specialists reaches retirement age, very few young college graduates are stepping up to take their place. Every time someone walks out the door, the organization loses some of its valuable institutional knowledge.
  • Organizational agility and technology innovation remain slow. Waterfall methodologies, procedural code, and hierarchical databases are relics of a time when speed, interconnectivity, and rapidly changing requirements were far less important than they are today.

Challenges of Mainframe Modernization

Yet making the transition from the mainframe to the cloud is not easy. Mainframes typically handle an organization’s most mission-critical workloads. Typically, tens of thousands of users (or more) rely on them everyday. Performance is critical. The stakes are extraordinarily high.

In fact, it’s not unusual for us to encounter prospective customers who simply don’t believe that mainframe-to-cloud migration is even possible for their organization. It’s too big, too complicated, too expensive, and too risky. Or so they believe.

In fact, we have proven the opposite to be the case, even with some of the largest, most complex systems in the world. We can do it better, faster, and cheaper than anyone else. We can also reduce project risk to near zero, offering verifiable proof of performance and functional equivalence before going live with production systems.

Learn more: Top 5 Challenges of Mainframe Modernization Projects

Enabling Digital Transformation

Digital transformation initiatives generally require rapid, flexible integration using modern languages, interfaces, and protocols. Mainframes have adapted, but because their native design pre-dates cloud computing, they simply aren’t as well-suited to the task as more modern alternatives.

Agile development technologies, likewise, are critical when it comes to successful digital transformation. Today’s organizations must adopt processes and practices that encourage experimentation, iteration, and responsiveness. Mainframe technologies are out of touch with that ethos because they are predicated on the notion that computational efficiency is paramount, that software requirements flow downhill from a single authoritative source, and that market dynamics remain relatively stable.

None of those statements is true any longer. Cloud platforms offer ultimate scalability and elasticity. Innovation benefits from creativity at all levels of an organization. Business requirements are changing every day, demanding that organizations constantly adapt to new realities.

Let’s revisit the three examples we presented earlier in this article:

  • AI is changing everything. Yes, it’s true that IBM and others have successfully implemented AI on the mainframe. But organizations seeking to roll out AI initiatives will see their options limited, especially with respect to generative AI. Moreover, the computationally intensive technologies will undoubtedly drive operating costs higher, offering further incentive to avoid vendor lock-in. Modernization eliminates the gap between cloud-based AI technologies and the information-rich transactional data that currently sits on the mainframe.
  • Real-time cloud analytics allow organizations to see what’s happening in real time. To achieve this, today’s mainframe shops must add another layer of technology to their toolkit; namely data replication pipelines that stream data from the core system to an analytics platform in something closely resembling real time. While today’s streaming data products are robust, they are by no means fail proof. They require considerable investment in design, implementation, troubleshooting and support, and ongoing maintenance. As with our previous example, mainframe modernization closes the gap between transactional data and cloud analytics.
  • ITSM is transforming the way businesses manage complex IT landscapes. Downtime is extraordinarily expensive, yet the complex interdependencies of modern IT systems makes it extraordinarily difficult to zero in on problems when they occur. ITSM offers real-time visibility to the entire IT landscape, allowing organizations to identify issues early and solve them before they escalate. Mainframe systems are generally excluded from that picture, though, because they lack native connectivity to market leading ITSM platforms like ServiceNow. Mainframe migration solves that problem.

Setting the Stage for Successful Modernization

Modernization is not just a technical undertaking. In the bigger scheme of things, it’s a cultural shift that enables rapid innovation and responsiveness to market needs. Mainframe shops seeking to benefit from digital transformation should consider that legacy technology acts as a barrier to innovation, whereas modernization accelerates it.

Today’s organizations can choose from a wide variety of modernization patterns. They can opt for on-premise, hybrid, or cloud deployments, all of which facilitate blending legacy technology with innovative new products and platforms.

Learn more:

On Mainframe Modernization and Hybrid Cloud

Modernizing on - not off - the mainframe as a cost-effective alternative

Refactoring: Preparing the Way for Digital Transformation

Mainframe modernization is essential for businesses looking to thrive in the digital age, offering a pathway to improved efficiency, agility, and innovation. The good news is that with fully automated, AI-enabled mainframe-to-cloud migration tools, the transition is faster and cheaper than it has ever been before. Perhaps most importantly, we have eliminated virtually all of the project risk, allowing for a smooth transition and seamless cutover to a new platform.

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Want to learn more about Astadia’s FastTrack Migration Factory solution? Read our whitepaper, or contact us today to learn more.

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