17 May 2024

Legacy to leading: The mainframe modernisation journey - blog written by Kyndryl

For most enterprises today, considering modernisation of their mainframe environments is an ongoing task. That’s hardly surprising, given that market environments are constantly evolving in ways that demand intelligent adaptation of the business’s operating methods – and, when executed well, modernisation does offer significant benefits.

This type of transformation does come with its own complexities and risks, however: mainframes often support mission-critical functions, leaving no room for error. And, while an organisation might correctly identify a particular system as being in need of attention, this in itself does not define what a successful destination might look like. Modernisation, after all, can mean different things in different contexts.

That’s why one essential ingredient for effective modernisation is the adoption of the “right application on the right platform” model. Different technology platforms offer unique capabilities, making them ideal for specific applications – whether it’s mainframe, private, or public cloud.

In the State of Mainframe Modernisation research report released by Kyndryl last year, enterprises reported a 9-11% increase in profits following mainframe modernisation. The survey of 500 business and IT leaders found that most organisations are taking a hybrid approach to mainframe modernisation, and collectively achieved $12.5 billion in cost savings.

Delivering a successful mainframe transformation, application, and data modernisation programme starts with a well-informed strategy, one which iterates to add incremental value and momentum. And as enterprises accelerate their transformation journeys, the majority rely on trusted providers and partners to ensure they have the knowledge and expertise to accomplish their goals.


Assessing the journey

While the specifics of each organisation’s transformation roadmap will differ, we can bracket out three main approaches to a modernisation strategy.

The first is to modernise on the mainframe. The State of Mainframe Modernisation research found that the three biggest advantages enterprises see when continuing to run workloads on the mainframe whilst modernising in-situ are improved performance (which was identified by 52% of respondents), reliability (48%), and improved innovation (43%).

For 67% of enterprise respondents, the primary approach to mainframe modernisation is to optimise performance and capacity, and deciding which software to keep, replace, retire, or consolidate. When optimising applications to use on the mainframe, almost half of businesses use containers and microservices to boost agility and portability.

The second main approach is integrating with other platforms. This approach involves bridging existing mainframe applications, data, and infrastructure with other platforms – including the cloud – in order to broaden the enterprise’s technological horizons. Businesses also have the option to integrate the mainframe with large-scale public cloud providers, private clouds, or distributed environments.

The research shows that the three major benefits of using an integrated approach are faster innovation (48%), better ability to unlock mainframe data for cloud applications (48%), and increased flexibility (41%).

The third major modernisation tactic is to move off the mainframe entirely. Here, the research identified a possibly unexpected finding: less than 1% of enterprises have moved or intend to move all applications off the mainframe. Despite that, 95% intend to move some applications off the mainframe, in a bid to maintain and modernise their mission-critical applications on the mainframe.

Enterprises that opt to move some workloads off the mainframe cite three key advantages: faster time to market (51%), improved performance (47%), and improved innovation (44%).


The security imperative

In practice, most enterprises will build a strategy which blends these approaches, according to the needs of different parts of their infrastructure. While they each bring their own sets of considerations and possibilities, though, there are also concerns which almost all mainframe modernisation journeys share.

The most common one is unsurprising: 85% of organisations cite security as their main motivator when it comes to modernising on the mainframe. More broadly, enterprises list security as one of the top two elements most crucial to the success of a mainframe transformation project. This pressing need to maintain security is shaping investment in upskilling and training: 61% of organisations are currently investing in training on mainframe security and access controls – by far the most popular upskilling project involving mainframes. The research shows that data loss and account hijacking are the top security concerns across all environments. For cloud-specific environments, respondents name data breaches (51%), account hijacking (42%), and data loss (38%) as the most pressing security concerns. For mainframe environments, the two major concerns are around data loss (43%), and account hijacking (33%).


Looking to the future

As technology leaders plan for the future, there are always uncertainties ahead. For modernisation projects, the question of skills looms large, with more than half of respondents in Kyndryl’s research expressing concern about the lack of mainframe skills amongst new people entering the workforce.

One thing we can be sure of, though, is that change is sweeping mainframe IT, and transformation projects will be key for businesses as they look to drive cost savings and profit. Maximising the opportunities for transformation (and mitigating the challenges) will therefore rest on finding a trusted partner with deep expertise and experience. It is this foundational step that will enable enterprises to leap into the modernisation journey with confidence and success.



Register your interest to attend Kyndryl's sponsored virtual roundtable on 12 June:

The public sector journey from mainframe to modernisation - sponsored virtual roundtable by Kyndryl

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