Part 1 of this series revealed how and why concerns around operating cost, skill sets and time required for new releases are prompting organizations to reevaluate the venerable mainframe platform against more digital-first compute environments. There are many reasons that businesses have decided to clutch long and hard to the mainframe and its many advantages. These include a relatively low total cost of ownership for large enterprises with a significant number of users and transactional workloads; robustness, reliability and security built from many years of fine-tuning; and the complexity of business-critical applications.
Most of our midsize and large clients opt for this path, understanding that retention brings its own set of challenges amid today’s digital-first mandate. These include how to modernize monolithic, difficult-to-change legacy applications, usually with their data locked in silos, and increase speed of delivery. Companies must be willing to add open application programming interfaces (APIs) and integrated DevOps processes, and to selectively re-platform applications.
There are also skills shortages that will only worsen as proprietary applications continue to age. Irrespective of this, there is also a need to maintain legacy applications and continuously adapt them to digital shifts that put customer experience at the very center of the organization. Application teams must be willing to adopt cloud-native, hybrid application development models that will ease the skills shortage in the longer run.
Going forward, the mainframe platform will retain its value and long-term viability as these business modernize IT service delivery for the digital era. But achieving this requires enterprise-wide leadership and commitment to an adaptation process.
Tackling the problem
The updating process begins with an assessment of the company’s mainframe portfolio. This extensive phase (see below) comprises both quantitative (questionnaires, bug logs, etc.) and qualitative (stakeholder interviews, workshops, etc.) input. Mainframe applications are assessed for their potential alignment with digital; their flexibility and agility; and ways in which they are underperforming or failing to serve the business. Operating costs around mainframe infrastructure, maintenance and complexity are noted.