Mainframes have been the cornerstone of many companies' IT infrastructure for decades. Although it may sound like outdated technology, reliance on mainframes remains unchallenged in many sectors, even those that have a demonstrable history of investing in technology, such as banking and insurance. However, the continuous demand for greater flexibility to address constant market changes and clients’ new demands, together with the limitation of specialized resources, and the need to reduce costs, has forced companies to bet on the modernization of their legacy systems. Therefore, it is important to know: what are the key steps for organizations to successfully modernize their mainframe platforms?
Are you among the majority of people who believe mainframes are doomed to disappear in the face of the inevitable growth of the cloud? For now, the figures don’t support this perspective. Mainframe systems are still essential for many companies because they manage 30 trillion business operations every day, support 87% of the transactions made with credit cards, and 9 out of 10 banks continue to rely on them. But, undoubtedly, the continuous need for organizational growth, optimization, and transformation necessitates their modernization, either total or partial, in order to reduce costs and to make them more agile. The goal is for back-end systems to evolve so that mainframes can be increasingly open and flexible.
According to data from Synergy (News - Alert) Research Group – a market intelligence and analytics provider - global enterprise spending on cloud significantly surpassed the amount spent on data centers for the first time in 2020. Cloud infrastructure services grew by 35% from 2019 to 2020, achieving $130 billion while data center spend decreased 6% to $89 billion.
COVID-19 was one of the key reasons for this acceleration. Even though the first half of 2020 presented a retraction in demand, especially in large consultative-led projects, overall, the demand was higher than expected. The new challenges presented by supporting remote work, increased importance placed on security issues, and the need to adapt to market and competitor’s changes, has contributed towards this growth.
Not every company has started to implement a plan to modernize its legacy systems. But there is no better time than the present to begin planning.
To start, any mainframe modernization process should follow the five steps identified below.
The first step is awareness, a starting point from which to analyze the reasons for undertaking this process, that is, the value proposition that modernization entails.
The second step is research which is required to determine cost and time -- traditional parameters to decide whether to continue with the project.
The next step is to conduct an evaluation where strategic decisions are made about how the modernization process is going to be carried out and which tools should be used to achieve the desired results.
The migration project itself, or adoption, is the fourth step; it is the transition from the mainframe to an open environment, when applications will become truly digital.
The fifth and final step is operation where the day-to-day management of the digital is running at full capacity.
Without question, the research and evaluation steps are the most crucial considerations in the decision-making process, since the primary objective is to understand how long it will take and how much money it will cost.
Even though this is a methodology that has proven effective with hundreds of GFT’s clients globally, it is always recommended that each project be analyzed and considered individually. At GFT, we have a methodology that focuses on the clients' needs, providing each client with a Rapid Assessment Report in one to two weeks that includes an overview of the architecture and infrastructure of the solution, an implementation plan, cost, and a business use case. Only the right partner with proven experience and market certifications from the world’s largest cloud providers can assure a smooth transition from legacy high-cost solutions to truly digital ones.
For any company looking to stay competitive, modernizing existing legacy solutions to a digital framework is inevitable. But implementation requires a detailed plan; one that must consider the unique circumstances of each company. Even when working with best practices and a recommended approach there is no one a fixed recipe for a successful transition. The right solution is one that is individually tailored and is being evaluated thoroughly every step of the way.
* Enric Pérez is head of Mainframe Modernization practice at GFT, with over 30 years of IT experience covering IT development, architecture, and infrastructure. His work focuses on mainframe consumption optimisation and downsizing, mainframe IT architecture, core business evolution and IT operations automation. Prior to joining GFT in 2010, Enric worked for almost two decades at Deutsche Bank Spain where he held various positions, including his last appointment as director of architecture and infrastructure. Enric studied Mathematics at the University of Barcelona.