Mainframes and Cloud

Much has been written about cloud computing, and, for a long time, it was very much an either/or situation. People highlighted how much better the mainframe was, and others focused on the things cloud computing was best at. It seems that now, the way forward is to keep the mainframe and utilize the best of the cloud – in much the same way the API economy has allowed mainframes to be linked to the world of mobile in a positive way that has benefitted both communities.

Someone from the mainframe world always says that mainframes were the original cloud computing platform. They remember when centralized mainframe processing time was sold to users, who sat at terminals in their offices and used the mainframe to run batch jobs – and the output could be printed locally or even posted to them from the mainframe site! Those terminal users had no idea where the mainframe was located. It was just ‘out there’ somewhere. And, the users probably paid the company with the mainframe for the processing time and data storage capacity that they used. And that’s similar to people who use cloud computing today, who have no idea where whatever they are using as a service is coming from, or where their data is being stored. All they need to know is that they are getting their work done.

IBM is completely onboard with hybrid cloud working. In March this year, they announced that they had completed a licensing agreement with ITP Software Systeme GmbH (ITP) to enhance DevOps for IBM Z Hybrid Cloud capabilities. This includes IBM’s offerings IBM Application Discovery and Delivery Intelligence (ADDI) for IBM Z V6 and IBM Wazi Developer V1.2. IBM also expects it to provide a strong foundation for their clients’ application modernization and cloud transformation initiatives, accelerating their journey to hybrid cloud. The deal allows IBM to introduce advanced application analysis on IBM Z and Red Hat OpenShift, as well as to be able to provide on-demand project level analysis as part of a modern DevOps pipeline when and where developers need it.

Just so you know, IBM Application Discovery and Delivery Intelligence (ADDI) for IBM Z V6 allows developers to accelerate application development and modernization by enabling them to efficiently gain granular insight into their business-critical application estate. New Analyze capability in IBM Wazi Developer V1.2, a subset of ADDI, helps enable developers to discover and analyze the relationships between components of their z/OS applications and understand the impact of a potential change. Wazi Analyze runs in a containerized environment to give developers the flexibility to run it in any environment.

That all sounds good, but what problem are they actually solving? The issue is that analysing applications for hybrid cloud is unbelievably complex, and yet, this is something that large financial businesses are looking to do. And the reason they are looking to do it is because it’s estimated that the return on investment (ROI) for them will be quite high and make it well worth their while. That’s where these new announcements from IBM can help.

Also looking to help large financial organizations, IBM announced IBM Cloud for Financial Services. It’s designed to help those financial organizations meet regulatory requirements. There’s a set of security and compliance controls that allow bank-sensitive data to operate securely in the public cloud.

According to IBM, “The IBM Cloud for Financial Services is designed to help reduce the risk for financial institutions, their partners, and fintechs, and innovate quickly with built-in controls that are adhered to by the entire ecosystem”.

The platform was developed with Bank of America and IBM-owned Promontory. The controls will be maintained by IBM’s Financial Services Cloud Council, which is led by Howard Boville, head of the IBM Hybrid Cloud Platform. Other contributors to the project were Luminor Bank, MUFG, Tata Consultancy Services, Ernst & Young (EY), and SAP, which is making its business applications available to users of the platform.

Organizations using IBM Cloud for Financial Services are being encouraged to use the platform to host their VMware-based virtual machine workloads. They are also being encouraged to use Red Hat OpenShift to create new, cloud-native applications.

While we’re talking about mainframes and cloud, it’s worth being aware that Amazon Web Services has expanded its AWS Competency Program to include a Mainframe Migration category. It’s a way for companies to demonstrate their expertise to potential customers. Two types of partners can participate: firms offering technology tools for easing mainframe-to-cloud migrations and consultancies that provide related professional services. Not that I’m suggesting in any way that companies should completely migrate off the mainframe into the cloud.

IBM got into the cloud business back in 2013, when it acquired SoftLayer Technologies. IBM Cloud currently offers IBM Cloud Pak for applications, Red Hat OpenShift on IBM Cloud, and IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions. IBM Cloud Paks are AI-powered software for hybrid clouds that can help users to implement intelligent workflows in their business to accelerate digital transformation. Built on Red Hat OpenShift, users can develop applications once and deploy them anywhere on any cloud. Cloud Paks are described as enterprise-ready, containerized software solution for modernizing existing applications and developing new cloud-native apps that run on Red Hat OpenShift. IBM Cloud Transformation Advisor can be used to help organizations with their move to the cloud.

Red Hat OpenShift on IBM Cloud helps enterprises start the cloud migration process by creating cloud-agnostic containerized software. Developers can containerize and deploy large workloads in Kubernetes quickly and reliability. Red Hat’s open-source platforms and tools are designed to work in a hybrid cloud environment. The thinking is that a consistent platform can exist across a variety of cloud deployments, that can be scaled up or down and is stable and secure.

Using APIs, it’s possible to link mainframe applications with mobile and cloud applications to create completely new applications that could be used to perform work that software running on only one of those platforms couldn’t.

Other people suggest that the data stored on mainframes, particularly on tape, is hard to analyse and so the organization is not getting as much useful information out of it as it possibly could. One solution is to store that data in the cloud. So, back-ups, archives, and disaster recovery tapes become a thing of the past and that data can then be used as input to data analytics in a cloud environment. It also saves space in the data centre.

Can we predict the future? Is it likely that mainframers will embrace the cloud as part of their IT structure? Is it likely that mainframers will migrate completely to the cloud? Forrester has recently run a survey (you can see it at of 384 IT decision-makers to see what they think. 85 percent of companies surveyed list on-premises as a critical part of their hybrid cloud strategy. Hopefully that indicate that mainframes aren’t going away any time soon. 83 percent of respondents agree or strongly agree that hybrid cloud IT infrastructure leverages open source for greater efficiency and scalability in the future.

It makes sense to include the best of every world in the IT infrastructure of an organization. And if that means using cloud, then hybrid computing is the way forward. It doesn’t make sense to try to migrate all those CICS or IMS applications to the cloud, but there are new things that cloud can offer (like analytics) that make it an important part of the future for IT. Combining the two is the way to get the most from the mainframe and the cloud.

Regular Planet Mainframe Blog Contributor
Trevor Eddolls is CEO at iTech-Ed Ltd, and an IBM Champion since 2009. He is probably best known for chairing the Virtual IMS, Virtual CICS, and Virtual Db2 user groups, and is featured in many blogs. He has been editorial director for the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook for many years.

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