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In this article, we take a look at mainframe application modernization: what it is, how it works, and its multitude of advantages.


Mainframe Application Modernization Explained

Posted by Angela Davis on December 6, 2022
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Technology is constantly evolving, and what was cutting-edge a decade ago can appear dated now. This is especially true when it comes to on-premises enterprise mainframe applications, which can be the driving force behind your business processes. 

A graphic showing forecasted growth in the mainframe modernization services market.

Image source 

Ergo, mainframe application modernization is something every enterprise should consider as it adapts to the latest digital transformation strategies.

When it comes to legacy mainframe modernization, you need to ensure you get it right. Adapting your current legacy mainframe environment can be tricky, but it’s far preferable to replacing a system that operates well, is highly stable, essential to business operations, and contains crucial data. 


A quick take on mainframe modernization strategies

If your legacy mainframe has had a long lifecycle and is outdated, you must make a decision as to which modernization strategy will best suit your organization. Mainframe modernization is the process of adapting your legacy mainframe system to better cope with modern demands and new tools such as cloud computing. 

There are numerous reasons why you should modernize your mainframe, from reducing costs to improving workflows and performance. It also affords you the opportunity to become cloud-native, meaning you can adapt more quickly in the future to changes in the market and new tech. 

With most legacy systems powered by COBOL programming, you need to look at how to make them work with newer applications and languages such as Java. You must also consider the increasing use of AI and machine learning and how they fit within your business model. 

Modernize in place

Your first option is to modernize your mainframe in place. This can be a cost-effective way to link your existing system with new systems and capabilities. 

OpenLegacy can help you implement an approach that seamlessly bridges your existing legacy system and new cloud structures. With efficient integrations, you can realize your operational goals continuously and quickly with no risk attached. 


Another option that OpenLegacy can help with is to rehost your services via a phased approach i.e. you operate a hybrid model with some functions carried out by your legacy system but your other foot planted firmly in the cloud. 

With this strategy, you can migrate some or all of your data and functionality centers to the cloud, as well as the applications you use most often—all while having them work harmoniously via out-of-the-box automatic integration points between old and new.


The third and most expensive option is to completely replace your current legacy mainframe and migrate all data and applications to the cloud. This is the most time-consuming strategy of the options available, but it means you’re prepared for future technological developments and progress with a 100% cloud-native operational approach.


Advantages of legacy mainframe modernization

70 percent of CEOs and CTOs have identified mainframe modernization as a priority. 

Image source 

Many organizations are reluctant to consider legacy mainframe modernization. They worry about costs, losing data during changes, whether there will be negative effects during the transition, and so on. 

To help overcome these concerns, it can be beneficial to consider the numerous advantages of modernizing your existing legacy mainframe. 

1. System modernization 

Your legacy system probably has COBOL, PL/I, Assembler, etc., as the primary programming language for most of its applications. However, some of these will be showing their age and may have limitations when it comes to modern workloads. 

With newer APIs, your DevOps team can integrate existing applications into more modern (and distributed) ones. This means you can still use your legacy applications—but combined with modern solutions. 

2. Integrate with the cloud 

You’re probably generating and using more data than ever. In fact, the world and the IoT (the internet of things) produce around 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, so older legacy mainframes can struggle. 

By modernizing your mainframe, you can integrate current mainframe architecture and benefits with cloud architecture and benefits, thus enjoying the best of both worlds, expanding your data storage capabilities, and increasing your workload virtualization. 

3. Reduced costs 

A major issue with legacy mainframes is the maintenance costs. Those costs grow as your workload does. You may experience increased outlay when it comes to licensing or SaaS costs for specific solutions too. 

With a modernized mainframe, however, you’ll see a dramatic decrease in costs with better-distributed data. You can also optimize your integrations with smart caching and more. 


Considerations for a successful mainframe modernization strategy

Of course, there are many things to consider when it comes to a successful mainframe modernization strategy. Knowing what factors will affect your modernization, and being prepared for them, can make the process simpler and more streamlined. 

1. Stakeholder alignment 

You need to understand and ensure that stakeholder alignment happens in relation to technical and business goals to meet organizational outcomes. It shouldn’t be about adopting new tech for the sake of it but focusing on how it can transform your business and help you meet your goals. Ensure you align varying needs and wants from different areas of your organization. 

2. Changing culture 

Change can be hard to accept at times, but it’s part and parcel of any mainframe modernization project. Your company culture needs to be ready to adapt to using cloud-native tech during and after the modernization is completed (if it ever is, as modernization should be continuous). However, you need to ensure you don’t sacrifice basic functionalities during this process. 

3. Identify goals and methods

You’d plan any physical trip you take, and the same goes for mainframe modernization. Identify your goals and what you want to achieve, then look at the best way to get there. Will you migrate all your apps and data to the cloud or adopt a hybrid model? 

4. Choose your team

Mainframe application modernization can be a complicated process, and there’s a good chance you won’t have all the necessary skills within your team. For many companies, it’s a case of outsourcing some or all of the work to a partner with the required skillset and experience. 

Ensure this team uses well-structured, well-documented methodologies and a technology-based approach such as OpenLegacy to ease, speed up, and lower the risk instead of relying on manual efforts. 

5. Listen 

Mainframe modernization can be a daunting process, so it’s immensely helpful to listen to organizations who’ve successfully undergone it, especially if they have similar structures to you. Try to find out what problems and pain points they encountered and how they overcame them. 


Why use OpenLegacy for mainframe modernization?

Mainframe modernization graphic.

Mainframe modernization can be a difficult process and often requires partnering with specialists who have experience in this area. OpenLegacy has the background and expertise to help any size organization achieve its aims. It can build, automate, and manage the legacy assets and integrations you need, with everything in one place, cloud-native,  and ready for deployment in your chosen cloud environment.


OpenLegacy: The best choice for mainframe application modernization

Mainframe modernization is something you need to get right. Mistakes can be costly, both in terms of repeating the process and the possibility of losing operational functionality. That means you must choose a partner who can get it done for you and knows how to successfully get you from A to B. 

OpenLegacy is a market leader when it comes to mainframe application modernization. It can help you decide on the best modernization process and identify whether full migration or a hybrid cloud model will best suit your needs. 

From automating access to your legacy system to ongoing development that keeps critical systems stable, OpenLegacy could be the best choice for your mainframe modernization. 


Mainframe application modernization FAQs

What is mainframe modernization?

Mainframe modernization is the process of updating your old legacy mainframe system to meet the challenges posed by new technology and digital transformation. It can involve migrating essential applications and data to the cloud or may mean adapting a hybrid model (where both legacy systems and the cloud shoulder some of the burden). 

Mainframe modernization has become popular across various industries in recent years, with financial services offering just one example. It can be used to help companies achieve their business goals and initiatives, improve customer experience and device management, and take advantage of newer technologies such as artificial intelligence.

It often involves both application development and the use of microservices.

What is mainframe migration?

Mainframe migration is the process where you migrate some or all of your business applications and data to the cloud. With increasingly high generation and use of data, cloud-based computing can offer organizations better functionality, as well as the ability to access data and systems from anywhere in the world.

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