Companies that run mainframe systems have long been aware that reducing MIPS (Millions of Instructions Per Second) is a key factor in controlling their escalating system operating expenses. For many, it’s not just about MIPS reduction; avoiding increases is also important, as mainframe contracts frequently involve MIPS thresholds above which additional surcharges take effect. Those increases can have a cascading effect on licensing fees for third party products as well.

As transaction volumes increase, or as companies expand their operations to include new divisions, more and more are finding themselves coming up against these limits and facing even higher cost increases. Reducing MIPS or avoiding MIPS increases can suddenly become a very high priority.

Fortunately, the modernization scenarios available to today’s organizations are more flexible than ever, making it possible to intelligently control MIPS consumption. Enterprise-grade integration tools are capable of connecting mainframe systems to distributed computing platforms, reliably and securely, at scale.

Options for mainframe/cloud interoperability are better than they’ve ever been in the past. For those who wish to move away from their mainframe systems altogether, highly automated migration technology has come of age, offering faster, more flexible migration while reducing project risk to nearly zero.

In this article, we’ll review the three primary strategies for reducing MIPS or avoiding MIPS increases in your organization. Given the fact that every IT landscape is different, each with its own unique complexities, – we strongly recommend working with advisors who thoroughly understand mainframe modernization and can work with you to identify the best options for your organization.

In addition, every contract is unique, so it’s important to work with a company that understands all of the factors and tradeoffs and can help you perform a complete assessment of your options.

US Air Force Case Study

Approach #1: Move Selected Workloads Off of the Mainframe

The first option is simply to move selected workloads off of the mainframe and deploy them in a lower-cost environment. Moving a DB2 database from the mainframe to a Linux environment or to the cloud, for example, offers one way to potentially reduce or limit MIPS on the mainframe system.

Specific applications, likewise, might be suitable for conversion and migration to an external environment, reducing the amount of processing power that’s being consumed on the mainframe.

It’s important to understand the full implications of such decisions, however. For every potential solution to the MIPS problem, there are tradeoffs that must be considered.

In the case of moving selected workloads to distributed systems, it’s important to understand how those components will connect back to the mainframe, which additional costs may be incurred as a result, and what impact the move will have with respect to system performance.

Approach #2: Deploy Alternative Technologies on the Mainframe

A second approach involves transitioning to newer technologies while keeping everything on the mainframe system. Companies running Natural & Adabas, for example, may be able to reduce MIPS considerably by moving to COBOL and DB2.

That can be achieved using automated code conversion and database migration tools that streamline the process and integrate with testing tools designed to simulate real-world usage and stress test the new system with your company’s actual data. And with the move from Natural & Adabas to COBOL & DB2, those organizations will expand the pool of mainframe talent from which they can hire personnel.

A second example may be applicable to a broader spectrum of organizations, – that is, migrating application code to Java running on IFL (Integrated Facility for Linux) or on the zIIP engine (z Systems Integrated Information Processor).

While these options may not be right for everyone, an experienced mainframe modernization consultancy can help you assess the implications of such a move and determine whether it fits into your overall MIPS reduction strategy.

Approach #3: Migrate Away from the Mainframe

The third approach is to perform a full migration of mainframe applications and data to cloud or other distributed computing environment. Historically, this has been the preferred option primarily for smaller companies, – but it is rapidly gaining steam among larger organizations as well.

In the past, a complete migration away from the mainframe was been viewed as a big-ticket, high-risk option. Today, it’s a known entity; it’s highly predictable, based on proven best practices and a comprehensive set of tools that automate, streamline, and de-risk the process.

Astadia’s FastTrack Platform offers and industrialized approach to mainframe migration, with an integrated suite of tools that enables rapid time to project completion, rock-solid data integrity, design flexibility, and extremely thorough testing prior to go-live. It’s just one of the many products and services we offer, as companies seek our advice and expertise in mainframe modernization and optimization.

The Astadia FastTrack Migration Factory is delivered to clients and partners as a dedicated On-Premise facility, or delivered via a Cloud-based PaaS.

Ancillary Benefits

While MIPS reduction is a key part of the bigger picture for organizations running mainframe systems, there are other benefits to modernization that must be considered as part of an overall strategy. As the pool of available mainframe talent continues to shrink, for example, many organizations are seeking to standardize on newer technologies for which it is easier to hire skilled programmers and system administrators.

Digital transformation initiatives are compelling many companies to shift toward open standards and cloud-based technology that more easily lends itself to integration. Such efforts are often accompanied by a transition to a DevOps approach, enabling IT organizations to respond to business needs with greater agility than in the past.

There is no single one-size-fits-all approach to reducing MIPS or avoiding MIPS increases. Every company is different; with a mix of different technologies, business contracts, and strategic & tactical priorities.

Great care must be taken to assess the costs, tradeoffs, and ramifications of each possible approach, – and any of the above scenarios can backfire if not approached properly. It’s critical that companies considering major changes work with an organization of experts who understand the full range of options available to them, and can perform a complete and realistic assessment.

If you’d like to talk to Astadia’s team of mainframe modernization experts, contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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