How to modernize and accelerate mainframe application development

The mainframe may seem like a relic of a day gone by, but truth be told, it’s still integral. According to the Rocket Software Survey Report 2022: The State of the Mainframe, four out of five IT professionals see the mainframe as critical to business success. At the same time, innovation and modernization are imperative for business survival.

When deciding which modernization path to take, some companies choose to scrap their mainframe, a costly endeavor that increases the risk of downtime and sacrifices its powerful benefits. With that in mind, what can businesses do to modernize their applications effectively?

Tap into open-source software

Mainframe-dependent businesses often think that open source is just for cloud-based products – but that assumption is incorrect. By introducing open-source software to mainframe infrastructure, companies will improve product development, speed time to market, and open the mainframe to new developers that will drive mainframe innovation.

Open-source software accelerates IBM Z® application development and delivery through modern tools that drive automation and integration to and from the mainframe. Success hinges on development support. Without, it can create security and compliance risks—and be difficult to maintain. Waiting on vulnerability fixes from the open-source software community can open an organization to a multitude of threats.

Another benefit of open-source software is that it provides the next generation of IT professionals – who may be unfamiliar with the mainframe – with familiar languages and tools that make it easy for them to manage the mainframe similar to the way they work with other platforms.

One of those technologies, Zowe, connects the gap between modern applications and the mainframe. Introduced four years ago by the Linux Foundation’s Open Mainframe Project, Zowe and other open-source technologies like it provide organizations with the responsiveness and adaptability they need to implement advanced tools and practices that balance developers’ desire to work with the latest technology and organizational need for security and support.

Through DevOps and application development, businesses can bring the accessibility of open source to the mainframe while ensuring the compliance and security of their system’s data. Because of the development of open DevOps/AppDev solutions, businesses can deliver applications to market faster, at lower cost, and with less risk.

Modernizing in place

Many legacy systems, mainframe and distributed, lack connectivity and interoperability with today’s cloud platforms and applications not because of a lack of capability, but because of a lack of effort. Enterprises are at a crossroads for how to invest in their future infrastructure support and have a handful of options:

Operate as-is. This option may not include net-new investments but positions a business for failure against competitors.

Re-platform or “rip and replace” existing technology. While it addresses the modernization issue, it does so in a costly, disruptive, and time-consuming manner that forces businesses to throw away expensive technology investments.

Modernizing in place. This makes it possible to embrace increasingly mature tools and technologies – from mainframe data virtualization, API development, hierarchical storage management (HSM), and continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) – that bring mainframe systems forward to today’s IT infrastructure expectations.

Rocket Software data reveals that more than half of IT leaders favor modernizing in place – and less than 30 percent and 20 percent favor “operate as-is” and “re-platforming”, respectively. DevOps innovations (e.g., interoperability and integration, storage, automation, and performance and capacity management needs) have empowered IT leaders to see modernizing in place as a more cost-effective, less disruptive path to a hybrid cloud future.

Bet on hybrid cloud infrastructure

Modernizing in place to drive a hybrid cloud strategy presents the best path for enterprise businesses that need to meet the evolving needs of the customer and implement an efficient, sustainable IT infrastructure. The investment in cloud solutions bridges the skills gap and attracts new talent while not throwing away the investment in existing systems. Integrating automation tools and artificial intelligence capabilities in a hybrid model eliminates many manual processes, ultimately reducing workloads and improving productivity. The flexibility of a modernized hybrid environment also enables a continuously optimized operational environment with the help of DevOps and CI/CD testing.

The mainframe has stood the test of time – and it will continue to do so for the benefits it provides that the cloud does not. As you evolve your strategy, think about how best to leverage past technology investments with the modern app dev tools delivered through the cloud today to innovate on your mainframe technology.

Learn more about how Rocket Software and its solutions can help you modernize.

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