How IBM is solving the mainframe modernisation challenge
Blog //26-04-2023

How IBM is solving the mainframe modernisation challenge

by Tim Jones, Managing Director - Application Modernisation

The pace of legacy modernisation is rapidly increasing, as revealed by a recent survey which found that 90% of IT leaders had modernised mainframe workloads within the past three years whilst only 11% had initiated modernisation efforts prior to 2020.

Every enterprise's modernisation journey is unique, with different needs driving decision-making along the way. It is becoming increasingly common for modernisation initiatives to include mainframes as a target as well. From our roundtable discussion with IBM, which featured John Currie, IBM Partner and Worldwide Practice Leader for Mainframe Application Modernisation, and Rebecca Huber, CTO for Application Modernisation at IBM DACH, participants gained valuable insights into how to address challenges associated with mainframe modernisation.

You can watch the full discussion to gain a comprehensive understanding or continue reading as we highlight some intriguing perspectives on the topic.

Can you explain how your partner selection process works?

John Currie: “When IBM and IBM Consulting look at our partner ecosystem, we aim to leverage and embark on projects with partners whose core competencies align with ours. We refine the list and focus on partners with the greatest skill, reputation, reliability, and track record. We also look at the different needs of each region globally and determine which partners are best suited for each region. In our partnership with Advanced, we rely on their long track record, experience, and trust, and we leverage our experiences together.”

Can you discuss some of the trends that you are seeing in your roles IBM Consulting regarding mainframe modernisation?

John Currie: “One trend we are seeing is the evaluation of the value of the mainframe, particularly in light of the pandemic. Some people initially thought it would be easy to move off the mainframe, but it has become apparent that it is not that simple. Therefore, we are seeing more emphasis on API enablement, data access, consolidation, and optimisation. Additionally, we are seeing a focus on upskilling and creating an academy for the mainframe, with younger people showing interest.”

Rebecca Huber: “It is not always appropriate or feasible to move everything off the mainframe. Core transactions and maintaining core data are areas where the mainframe excels, particularly for financial institutions and large systems of record. We are seeing more emphasis on the hybrid cloud approach, with clients choosing where to run their workloads based on factors such as efficiency and optimisation. Ultimately, it is about finding the right path forward based on the client's objectives.”

How can clients navigate the challenges associated with mainframe modernisation?

John Currie: “It is important to have an overall strategy and a program to implement over time. Clients should consider breaking it up into manageable parts that can show return on investment and justify the spend whilst moving everything forward in a logical path. It is also important to recognise the value of the mainframe in certain areas and determine what makes sense to stay on the mainframe or close to the data from a latency standpoint and what makes sense to move off for efficiency and optimisation.”

Rebecca Huber: “Clients should aim for a hybrid cloud solution, recognising that it takes time to transform and that they will need a mixture of both worlds in the interim. It is important to recognise that the mainframe is not an old platform, and it has a lot to offer in terms of integration. Gradual integration with the mainframe can provide a path forward towards modernisation.”

Can you speak to a best practice or two for migrating workloads to the cloud?

Rebecca Huber: “One of the key practices is assembling a team of experts who understand both the old and new technologies, as well as the client's objectives for the migration. Whilst it would be ideal to have a single person who knows everything, this is not realistic, and instead, a team with a range of expertise is necessary.

The team needs to understand the old technology well enough to tease out subtleties and identify potential hurdles. They also need to understand the target technology and whether it can meet the client's objectives. Simply moving to the cloud may not necessarily lead to a better outcome, so the team needs to consider costs, risks, and potential reimplementation challenges.

Additionally, the team needs to understand the coexistence architecture and how it can impact the migration. Since these projects typically take time and involve core business applications, understanding the industry and business processes is just as important as understanding the technology itself.

Ultimately, the key to success is a well-rounded team that includes industry experts, technology experts, and those who understand the client's objectives. By working together and staying focused on the client's goals, the team can achieve a successful migration to the cloud.”

What advice would you offer to someone who is embarking on a modernisation project for the first time?

Rebecca Huber: “My advice would be to carefully consider your objectives and start small. Moving off legacy systems can be more complex than anticipated, and it's important to test and approach the project in manageable chunks. By taking an agile approach and continually looking for opportunities for optimisation, you can make steady progress towards your larger goals.”

John Currie: “From my perspective, the most important piece of advice is to remain open to the possibilities and avoid preconceived notions of what the project will entail. There is no one right answer, and each modernisation project is unique. By breaking the project down into manageable pieces and focusing on what meets your objectives, you can achieve the best result. It's important to consider factors such as risk aversion, cost, skill, and timing, as well as the patience of the business in order to achieve success. Overall, remaining flexible and open-minded will be key to a successful modernisation project.”

Watch the full roundtable with IBM and Advanced.  

Ready to take the next step?

No matter what kind of modernisation plans you’re considering, Advanced can help you meet your objectives and drastically reduce project risk by harnessing the power of unmatched modernisation expertise and powerful proprietary tools. Get in touch today.

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Tim Jones

Tim Jones


Managing Director - Application Modernisation

Tim has a track record of success in mission-critical Application Modernisation projects. He is renowned for helping organisations maximise their investment in critical legacy applications.

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