For the foreseeable future, the mainframe will continue to be a critical part of the business and operational growth of thousands of organizations that rely on mainframes with increasing workloads. That fact is borne out in the BMC Mainframe Research Report, showing that 91 percent of survey respondents predict that their mainframe workloads will continue to grow.
The challenge is that with growth of workloads come increased costs and a host of related mainframe management questions. While there are many questions and challenges that mainframe users must face when moving forward in the digital age, here are five that are key to resolve, along with some basic answers:
1. How Can I Best Deal with UI Challenges for a Diverse User Base?
While it’s become common to develop web-enabled user interfaces for mainframes, the sheer number of applications used by employees in-house makes it untenable to create an interface for each one. Session management software with a web interface is one quick way of enabling mainframe applications for the web.
The latest web-enabled session managers show the mainframe application within a web browser so that it can be manipulated via a mouse and touchscreens. This makes it possible to gain mainframe access from any PC or mobile device, thus eliminating the need for terminal emulators, which cuts potential costs. Consequently, mainframe administration can be opened up to personnel who don’t have a great deal of expertise in the mainframe management environment.
2. How Can We Safely Modernize Legacy Mainframe Applications for Competitiveness?
Modernizing legacy mainframe applications poses a number of challenges that include:
- Business rule extraction
- External system dependency mapping
- Lack of system documentation and coding standards
- Application complexity due to extensive changes
- Enhancements undergone since the initial implementation
Today, there are proven, easy-to-implement extract, transform, and load (ETL) solutions for migrating mission-critical data to the cloud. Some of these solutions have the ability to easily handle cross-migration for transitioning from non-relational to relational databases using replication that doesn’t impact the business. In essence, these tools ensure that the legacy database stays in place while the new relational database automatically synchronizes with it until the time comes to retire the old setup.
These versatile solutions can also make it possible to re-host existing mainframe applications on an x86–64-based cloud provider instance. While they can also enable batch job migration to the cloud, these solutions make incremental migration possible. There are, of course, tools for re-engineering existing mainframe applications for more agile architecture using microservices, containers, and decoupling. These tools may require legacy system management staffing support from a partner that has expertise in mainframe application migration.
3. How Do I Reduce the Escalating Costs of Mainframe Management
Mainframes are relied upon to interface with customer-facing applications on mobile devices and a host of other technologies, which are increasing the burden on mainframes. This has made mainframe management both costly, time-consuming, and expertise-dependent.
Outsourced mainframe management services can address all of these challenges by helping a company move from a reactive approach to a proactive approach that enables the outsourcing partner to identify and rectify problems before they occur. Whether it’s on-premises hosting or remote hosting in the partner’s data center, mainframe management can reduce infrastructure costs and increase flexibility. Equally important is the partner’s ability to decrease total cost of ownership (TCO) and poise the mainframe for more streamlined modernization.
4. How Do I Bring the Mainframe into DevOps Culture?
As IT leaders embrace DevOps and Agile across their distributed and cloud environments, the most important applications will reside on the mainframe, but waterfall methods can reinforce silos between the mainframe and other cloud-based applications. The first step to changing the software development life cycle (SDLC) process to a DevOps methodology is to migrate to a more modern graphical user interface (GUI) that is suitable for a DevOps team that has less experience with traditional mainframe interfaces.
Developers that are new to mainframe DevOps will need solutions that facilitate quick and easy reading of existing application logic, program interdependencies, and data structures. Finally, Agile project management and Agile-enabled source code management (SCM) software provide the Agile capabilities developers need to make the transition smooth.
The goal is to create a unified DevOps environment where the mainframe is just another platform. This requires integration between mainframe and distributed tools (typically via REST APIs) so that DevOps teams have a single point of control for all changes across z/OS, Windows, Unix, and other platforms.
5. How Can I Optimize My DB2 and CA-IDMS Databases with Mainframe Database Management?
IMS costs and a shrinking mainframe expertise pool make it difficult to maintain legacy applications with locked-in data. The difficulties increase in a business climate of digital transformation where modernized legacy applications require data to be freed from its legacy constraints as well.
Fortunately, there are software solutions that can provide bi-directional data replication between mainframe, Linux, Unix, and Windows platforms. These solutions make it possible to identify and capture changes occurring in mainframe and relational databases and send it to any on-premises or cloud-based targets.
The foundational role that mainframes play in countless business sectors has evolved, but never really declined. Businesses will continue to face an increasing number of management challenges to keep pace with that evolution. By seeking out skilled mainframe management partners, businesses can adapt their mainframes to meet the growing possibilities of digital transformation.