Is the mainframe really dead? A Microsoft and Kyndryl perspective

Approaching mainframe data with a growth mindset can help customers gain access to business-critical information and realise new possibilities

Richard Baird
By Richard Baird on 24 January 2023
Is the mainframe really dead? A Microsoft and Kyndryl perspective

When you have looked at something the same way for a long time, it becomes difficult to see new possibilities. But if someone comes along with a different perspective, they can see it all differently. Applying a growth mindset can make those possibilities visible and make all the difference, which is what happened when Kyndryl partnered with Microsoft. 

Many people in the technology sector that have limited experience with mainframes think that the mainframe is dying or dead. The reality is that customers are still buying and using mainframes to run some of the most important businesses in the world. Kyndryl, for example, currently manages over six exabytes of customer mainframe data.

Mainframe customers typically fall into three archetypes: the investor, the maintainer, and the divestor. The investor is, as the name suggests, investing actively in their mainframe estate. The maintainer is not investing to expand their mainframe estate anymore but is instead leveraging their current footprint that is running key areas of their business. The divestor is either partially or entirely moving off the mainframe to Microsoft Azure for various reasons. It is important to note that it isn’t always cut and dried – an investor can be a divestor.

Mainframes are complex with a multitude of data types and applications that can be decades old. There is no company on the planet with more combined years of experience working with them than Kyndryl. Working with Microsoft solution architects, we approach the problem from the persona of ‘the business’ to design paths to value that can meet a customer where they are on their hybrid journey.

From the perspective of helping an organisation gain access to a holistic view of their data via a single dashboard and enabling data-driven business operations, it has always been a challenge to unlock siloed data stores. It is an inconvenient truth that although mainframes are powerful engines for a business, the data is difficult to access. Although more software-as-a-service-based data sets have become available for businesses to gain insights and new data streams like social media have become increasingly accessible, the mainframe data seemed to remain locked on an island that was very hard to get to due to issues such as a lack of resources and a skills gap with legacy languages. 

So, that’s where we started. How could we help customers access mainframe data?

Our journey of co-innovation led us to design the Mainframe Data Pipe to Azure, which leverages the Microsoft Power Platform to create new possibilities for any customer that has a mainframe estate. Mainframe data becomes the new rich operational data source that can join a business’ other data, delivering a return on investment within days and weeks rather than years.

How much data is on your mainframes? How many years of transactional data? Ask any data scientist and they will tell you the path to creating powerful machine learning models is shortened if a company has a rich set of historical information upon which to reason. If you historically have been siloed, you weren’t able to blend other rich data sets with that transactional data, so bringing that history to your estate in the cloud unlocks untold insights in the patterns of your business.

Once that data has landed, you can leverage a new technology that has taken the industry by storm, low code/no code. There is a universal issue that there are not enough developers in the world with the coding knowledge to meet the digital demand for new applications. There is also a huge issue called the ‘app gap’, which isn’t limited to legacy coding languages like COBOL. Microsoft’s Power Platform is a low-code/no-code suite of tools that help people without extensive coding knowledge to build apps, websites and virtual agents, enabling businesses to analyse data, automate processes, accelerate innovation and reduce costs.

The best part? Your business is probably already using it. Kyndryl can help you get your mainframe estate connected to over 700 other data connectors, accelerating the application modernisation journey that until now was a lengthy engagement.

Finally, not only did we unlock the data and jump the app gap with Microsoft, but we have also tackled the complexity of DevOps by leveraging the revolutionary integrated development toolset from Microsoft. We have thousands of mainframe professionals at Kyndryl and for decades our developers have jumped from screen to screen to deploy their packages to update applications on IBM Z mainframes and System i midrange computers. Working with Microsoft’s Azure DevOps, Github and VSCode our team was able to reduce application development time with a single DevOps pipeline.

Wherever you are in your hybrid journey, Kyndryl can help evaluate all the paths available to you for leveraging your mainframe estate to work seamlessly with your Azure, Microsoft and BizApps strategy. 

To learn more, visit: www.bit.ly/3qSa4OK

Richard Baird is vice president and global CTO of core enterprise and zCloud at Kyndryl

This article was originally published in the Winter 2022 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription

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