Mainframes are a stronghold of many businesses, housing vast amounts of data but also of business knowledge. These famously reliable and complex machines continue to underpin the operations of numerous key players in the industry.
In fact, the majority of Fortune 500 companies still rely on COBOL-based mainframe applications for their daily operations. As a consequence, the role and future of mainframe environments in cloud migration strategies is often overlooked. But is it time for change?
Not all orgnizations decide to replace their mainframes in favor of cloud-native solutions. In fact, some businesses still make new investments into mainframes as part of their IT strategy. However, there are some reasons why cloud computing is gradually pushing out the existing systems.
Traditionally, mainframes have been seen as worthwhile long-term investments due to their reliability and compute power. However, they are no longer the most cost-effective option. As part of the on-premises datacenter, they are costly to acquire, run, and maintain.
Today, many organizations seek to minimize their capital expenses, and mainframes can become a burden which holds them back. Transitioning to a cloud environment offers a way to alleviate some of the financial strain due to more flexible spending structures. This may catalyze the modernization process.
Mainframes have been around for decades – and so has their source code. While fit for purpose in their day, these machines become more difficult to maintain and update. Documentation can be incomplete, the workforce skilled in its operation is aging, and a pool of experts versed in its legacy code is ever smaller.
New technologies and frameworks gain popularity, and new generations of programmers are not investing their time into learning old code languages. Thus the gap in expertise widens. As the IT market suffers from persistent skill shortage, system modernization becomes ever more urgent.
Modern business landscape demands that businesses are more agile. That is why digital transformation is a priority for many. Using technology, organizations can expand their offerings with new services, which is vital for business growth.
Through in-depth data analysis, they can offer solutions more tailored to their customers’ needs or expectations. At the same time, enterprises increasingly find mainframes limiting in their capacity to rapidly process and analyze data.
Likewise, it may not be easy to build upon the existing software to add new functionalities. Sticking solely to legacy mainframe technology may hinder an enterprise’s adaptability to the fast-evolving market landscape.
Modernizing mainframes is also a step towards eco-friendly business practices. As the deadlines for zero-emissions targets are getting closer, businesses are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Transitioning to cloud infrastructures – often more energy-efficient and with options for carbon neutrality – becomes an attractive proposition.
If you’re considering migrating your mainframe, the good news is that you don’t need to create a full, detailed migration plan. It may be better to take small steps. In fact, as mainframes often host business-critical data or processes, it is advisable not to try and migrate everything all at once. It’s essential to identify the primary drivers – be it cost reduction, maintenance ease, or data accessibility – to steer the migration strategy effectively. This way, you can still leverage cloud capabilities and propel your business forward while protecting your investment.
Consider what is the main reason for the migration. Whether it’s modernizing code for ease of maintenance or leveraging historical data for analytics, let your specific requirements guide your strategy. This will help you prioritize the assets for migration.
For example, you can refactor some of the legacy software or workloads to run in the cloud, this modernizing the code, which will make it easier to maintain and build upon. Or, if you’d like to take advantage of historical business data, you can create a copy in the cloud, where you can then process it and analyze for drawing deeper insights into company performance. With new insights, your business can be agile and responsive without abandoning your current mainframe.
Migrating your legacy system should not be conducted in separation to the entire cloud strategy but should be included as a part of it. Even if you’re not planning migrating to the cloud in the near future, ensure you make the adequate provisions. Consider the infrastructure requirements, policies to implement, and data access protection, so your systems can maintain performance and maintainability in the long run.
Modernizing a mainmainframe environment has the added difficulty of usually involving business-critical data or processes. For this reason, you need to be prepared for any eventuality, to make sure that if the worst happens, your applications and systems remain operational.
For example, if you have any processes running 24/7, you may wish to consider a parallel migration. This is where the mainframe resources run alongside the cloud at once for some time, until you are sure that the migrated environment is fully operational and stable.
You also need to consider options for disaster recovery. Security threats are everywhere and users are still your weakest link, so it’s best to make sure you can restore your enterprise systems at any time.
AWS offers a number of options to migrate your mainframe systems and applications that can be tailored to your priorities and requirements.
The main offering is AWS Mainframe Modernization. The managed platform is mainframe-compatible, allowing you to automate parts of migration and test the results at scale.
You can also take advantage of AWS Mainframe Acceleration Program. Using this approach, you work with a selected AWS partner to strategize and execute your migration. The program comes with additional resources and incentives to help you on your journey.
Working with vendors, you can integrate the cloud and your mainframe. For example, a data replication functionality in AWS allows you to copy your data into the cloud to perform advanced analytics. A similar functionality is offered also by other providers like Microsoft.
By copying or moving your data to the cloud, you can take advantage of modern analytics functionalities, enriching your insights with AI and ML-powered analytics. This can allow you to make better-informed decisions and uncover patterns in your data that were previously hidden.
You can also use the cloud as a backup or disaster recovery capacity. Often mainframe data is backed up on another on-site location, increasing the costs of infrastructure maintenance. With cloud-based services, you can take advantage of flexible storage pricing options to lower the maintenance cost.
As we stand at the brink of a new digital horizon, the migration of mainframes to cloud platforms like AWS presents not just a challenge, but an opportunity to redefine the future of enterprise IT infrastructure.
Partnering with experienced professionals can be invaluable in navigating this journey. Cloud vendor ecosystems offer a plethora of partnership opportunities to find solutions best suited to your unique needs.
Scalo stands ready to guide you through this endeavor, offering expertise in IT migration and modernization. We invite you to explore our services and take the first step towards a cloud-empowered future. Contact us today for a tailored consultation.