Mainframe Modernization: It’s All About the Right Platform for the Right Workload



With four out of five airlines, 44 of the top 50 banks, and eight of the top 10 telcos globally relying on mainframe, it continues to be the world’s choice for mission-critical workloads. However, as many enterprises start or continue a journey to hybrid cloud, they also aim to transform and modernize their mainframe environments (running on IBM Z or i).

Petra Goude, global practice leader for Core Enterprise & zCloud at Kyndryl, says businesses need to take a holistic approach to modernizing their mainframe estate and decide on the right platform for the right workload.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges IT leaders face when they try to modernize their mainframe environment?

One challenge customers face is finding the expert skills needed to maintain and modernize the mainframe. These platforms can be perceived as complex and use very specific languages, and mainframe experts are increasingly reaching retirement age.

There’s also the question of how mainframe workloads will fit with other platforms and what platforms are best to integrate with. Is the mainframe becoming too costly to run? How do I adhere to regulatory demands if I make new choices?

Finally, the cost of maintaining the platform is always a factor to consider. Moving for moving’s sake is not necessarily a good thing. You need to think well about how to best leverage the investments of the past and, at the same time, drive agile operations.

Q: What differentiates Kyndryl’s approach to mainframe modernization?

Where industry messaging is often binary — you either stay on or move off the mainframe — we take a balanced approach. The workload running on the mainframe is often quite complex. We don’t believe it’s a question of whether or not to use the mainframe, but you need to take a holistic approach on a workload-by-workload basis.

We help customers decide on the best platform approach for their workloads and applications. For some customers, the decision will be to modernize on the mainframe or to integrate with hyperscalers or distributed environments; for others the right decision is to move off — and in many cases, we see a combination of all three.

Q: When is it best to move off or to leave workloads and applications on the mainframe?

We see different approaches in different industries. The more regulated the industry, the more likely businesses are to consider staying on the mainframe or at least taking a balanced approach. For example, financial services firms are more cautious, while we see that less regulated industries like retail have applications where the workloads may be better suited in the cloud. It really depends on the applications and workloads more than anything else.

The mainframe is designed to be a high-transaction-volume engine. Few things can beat it for high-volume, regulated, highly secure workloads. Applications with those characteristics are well suited to stay there. That’s why so many banks and other high-transaction industries continue to use this platform.

If the best decision is to keep an application on the mainframe, you need to think about how to modernize it for optimal performance and integrate it with other environments without jeopardizing security, availability, or other demands.

Q: What key business outcomes can mainframe modernization initiatives deliver to customers?

Being able to leverage your mainframe data across your IT environment without incurring regulatory risk provides useful and actionable insights.

You can build applications faster and provide services more easily by using tools like DevSecOps to make developers productive across your entire IT environment. Being able to connect the platform to others removes silos and drives productivity. You can use low-code/no-code development for speed and flexibility.

I would encourage every customer to look at what they should do to modernize their mainframe environment, because they may be missing an opportunity to make their business faster and better.

For more information on Kyndryl’s mainframe services, click here.