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The Mainframe’s Not Dead: Why Mainframe Modernization Should Be Part of Any Hybrid Cloud Strategy

Setting the Stage for Cloud Transformation

Mainframe modernization sets enterprises up for the next stage of digital transformation.

By simplifying their mainframe, organizations can create a flexible IT infrastructure primed for innovation and prepared for today’s evolving workplace—whether it’s to align with shifting end-user expectations or support a remote-first work model.

In a hybrid cloud environment, modernized mainframes enable legacy systems and applications to connect with cloud platforms. In turn, organizations reap the benefits of both worlds: Mission-critical workloads are supported by the mainframe but interact with other applications running in the cloud.

In this way, modernization is a crucial factor to ensure success with cloud migration and hybrid cloud systems. In addition to underpinning the hybrid cloud, consider three other benefits of modernized legacy systems:

  1. Reduced costs: Non-modernized mainframes require more resources and time for maintenance. Conversely, integration of mainframe and non-mainframe apps reduces costs associated with maintenance, hardware, and software processing. A hybrid cloud strategy that prioritizes the mainframe can further mitigate the costs of any future modernization and cloud migration efforts.
  2. Maximized performance: Modernized mainframes help align workloads with the right system—whether it is the private or public cloud, or on-premise—optimizing computing performance across the enterprise. That could look like offloading data transformation to specialized mainframe engines or the cloud, or eliminating applications altogether—all of which frees up storage space and IT budget.
  3. Lower cybersecurity risk: Modernization further bolsters the mainframe’s strong cybersecurity capabilities. As cyberthreats grow in frequency and scope, modernization can not only improve existing security configurations—storage security, identity management, data encryption, threat protection—but also enable new cybersecurity technology, such as vulnerability scanning and automated security measures.

As cloud migration continues, organizations are finding some applications best suited for the cloud, while other workloads continue to run on the mainframe. Two-thirds of businesses have no plans to fully replace the mainframe with the cloud, according to Forrester.

Rather than a wholesale shift to the cloud, most business leaders expect that both mainframe and cloud-based applications will grow in tandem. The percentage of organizations using the mainframe in a hybrid cloud environment is expected to more than double in the coming years, according to IBM.

How Modernization Can Maximize the Hybrid Cloud

Most businesses recognize the role the mainframe will play in future growth and innovation. Seventy-four percent of businesses believe the mainframe offers long-term benefits as a strategic platform, according to Deloitte. And more than 70% of C-suite leaders point to mainframe modernization as a strategic business priority in the coming years.

As businesses look to keep up with competitors, how can they prioritize mainframe modernization in their hybrid cloud strategy? Follow these considerations to maximize the power and potential of the mainframe in the hybrid cloud journey:

  1. Strategy is everything. Like any digital transformation project, successful mainframe modernization and cloud migration should align with long-term business objectives. Companies need an in-depth transformation strategy to get there.

They can start with an in-depth assessment of their current IT environment—analyzing legacy applications and assets, the organization’s cloud readiness and existing cloud infrastructure, as well as any security and performance standards. Then, determine top business challenges and the ways in which mainframe modernization can solve those issues.

In the planning phase, set clear objectives to maximize strategic alignment and measurable goals to get there. Because of the complexity involved with such a broad transformation, it’s vital to have an in-depth understanding of an enterprise’s current environment and a strategy for how it will evolve.

  1. Collaborate, designate, simplify. Cloud migration can get very technical, very fast. The configurations between data, applications, platforms, networks, and end points are confusing for any IT team—add in refactoring and replatforming and it can seem like a daunting process. Fortunately, IT teams don’t have to go through this journey alone.

Collaborate with line-of-business leaders, seek out support from engineering and DevOps teams, and designate highly complex, technical tasks for third-party partners. While this will involve short-term investment, it will simplify the process, keep transformation efforts on track, and ensure a greater level of success in the long run.

  1. Don’t limit the options. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to modernization and migration. Every organization has a unique assortment of mainframe assets, cloud platforms, and applications—and their own way that each of these components fits into business operations.

Transformation could involve keeping certain core applications on the mainframe, eliminating unnecessary assets, or transferring workloads to one of several clouds. Trusted consultants and advisors can conduct performance and capacity assessments that assign the right workloads to the right environments—but they shouldn’t box a company into solutions or systems that don’t align with future plans. When it comes to hybrid cloud configuration, businesses have the opportunity to explore all options.

The mainframe is not an either/or course of action. And anyone saying that the mainframe is dead and should be abandoned by the modern enterprise is unrealistic.

For most companies, the mainframe and the cloud are closely intertwined—and necessary to set the enterprise up for success. In fact, more than 90% of business and IT executives view their mainframe as a growth platform. Grounding an organization’s digital transformation with modernized IT infrastructure and a clear hybrid cloud strategy maximizes all elements, from mainframe to the cloud to the end user, and better business outcomes for the entire organization.

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