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There’s no doubting the performance, resilience and scale that the mainframe environment provides. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the world’s largest organisations across a variety of sectors use mainframes.

These organisations are not static – they are ever-changing. As a result, their mission-critical mainframe applications can’t stand still. According to a Micro Focus customer survey, plans are in place to maintain or modernize 84% of mainframe applications in the near future. Moreover, Gartner recently asserted that 90% of all business applications – many mainframe-based – will still exist in five years.

Studies suggest that modernizing existing core systems and incrementally improving or adding capabilities to them is a statistically lower risk option. Typically, this means building out from existing mainframe-based COBOL systems.

The benefit of building upon what’s already there is that the value the system already provides – often a decades-old heritage of functionality – is protected and maintained for the future. And in some cases this heritage works to an organisation’s advantage – differentiating them from competitors.

Finally, reusing IT applications in a future strategy not only shortens the effort involved, since much of the required system already works, but it also has a positive impact on the required budget.

Making modernization work

The term ‘modernize’ means different things to different people. Variance within the IT industry, as well as variations of what is required to change, dictates that the concept of mainframe modernization needs to be flexible enough to cope with a spectrum of needs. And many mainframers are finding that it seems to be ready now, regardless of the request. Here are just some examples of how mainframe technology is supporting modern demands:

Modernization often focuses on the application itself. Typically, the emphasis falls on updating or extending business functionality through a fresh user experience or capability. This can also include leveraging mainframe applications alongside web service based interfaces, or other composite application architectures.

The underlying COBOL systems can behave as any other language alongside modern development practices. Through Eclipse integration, managed code support, web services and REST/JSON support a number of processes are possible. These include building and consuming COBOL-based web services, creating new UIs on the traditional COBOL back-ends and having composite COBOL and Java apps. Therefore, in today’s mainframe world, application modernization is at a developer’s fingertips.

At the heart of Connected Infrastructure

Maintec’s “connected mainframe” puts big iron at the heart of organisational IT, not outside it. Whether accessing it from a range of new devices or interfaces, the facility and, indeed, security exists. Whether mainframe applications must execute in a virtualised environment – such as Z-based, a multi-cloud LinuxOne, AWS, Azure – or another hybrid environment, core mainframe systems have the flexibility to do so today. With 31.5% of mainframes investing in additional capacity because of the cloud, connectivity between the two is becoming more mainstream in enterprise IT.

Technology only does what it’s told, so the right mainframe-ready workforce is essential. While the shortage of IT skills remains a strategic challenge, mainframe vendors have long advocated for an approach that unifies disparate IT skills. This, in turn, enables millennials to acquire technical abilities across the entire IT estate, including the mainframe.

IBM’s recent investments in z14 introduced encryption technology to the box. Additional software innovations from the mainframe vendor community provide a far greater level of security through multi-factor authentication for mainframe systems. Modernization of a mainframe-based IT system is not only the quickest route to success, but also delivers a variety of viable options irrespective of the drivers for change. It is therefore little wonder the mainframe community continues to rely on one of the most trusted components of the IT estate.

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