Mainframe, meet Cloud

With so many organizations adopting Cloud as part of their IT strategy, it is easy to see why it is being considered a panacea for digital age computing. And as more and more businesses look to deploy more and more workload in the Cloud, the attention inevitably turns to core mainframe systems. This blog explores the hitherto disconnected entities of Cloud and Mainframe and asks whether the time is now for mainframe redeployment into the cloud. What is a mainframe?

A cloudy outlook

Cloud is an accepted part of mainstream enterprise computing and offers a variety of benefits across hardware utilization, power costs, people costs, capex costs and flexibility. And, as part of a broader hybrid infrastructure, can offer enterprise scale, flexible computing.

Synergy research group cites our partners Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft as two of the key vendors in the Cloud Infrastructure services by market share. This year’s RightScale’s State of the Cloud Report refers to a rapidly expanding sector, with two-thirds of those surveyed saying they will be spending 20% or more (in 35% of cases it will be over 50% more) on Cloud services in 2018. Such expansion suggests widespread adoption – and the same report confirms a 96% market adoption of Cloud.

Scale is one thing. Complexity is entirely another. Many of the world’s largest IT organizations are using mainframe computing as the centre-piece of their infrastructure. Is this an option for the Cloud too? Is a cloud environment operationally fit for purpose for mainframe workload? That’s a tougher question.

For a growing number of organizations, that fitness for purpose has been determined, and mainframe workload is being deployed into the Cloud. Across criteria such as availability, reliability, performance and security, IT teams have decided that the Cloud option makes sense for particular mainframe applications. The question therefore is how pervasive is that decision, and what are the right conditions?

And, not Or

Rarely, if ever does one environment prevail as a monopoly technology in the enterprise. Most organizations you know possess a blended infrastructure of many platforms, representing a pragmatic solution that has evolved over time. Only with careful planning and assessment can IT leaders start changing that. And in the case of moving mainframe workload as part of that change, that’s an even trickier task.

But that is exactly what is being done today, successfully. So where does it make sense to move mainframe workload into the Cloud? The following use-cases are based on real customer situations where the business reality and technical strategy drove the need for enterprise application redeployment projects using cloud technology.

So what were the use-cases?

Geographic Expansion

One common enterprise objective is branching out into new territories. Core systems may need to be replicated across new data centers in each country, a fairly typical situation to support rapid expansion. A virtualized and hosted Cloud infrastructure makes logical sense if it can support the IT systems in question.

Accelerated Compliance

Expansion has to comply with rules that govern how IT is physically implemented in region. Due to established and emerging data privacy laws, some clients may be unable to manage the new operation from their head office. Instead, they need to establish the right – low-scale, yet compatible – IT footprint in the new region.

New Client Platforms

Market penetration and growth plans may require organizations to reach clients in their market who were currently not using their prescribed deployment platform. With technology often the touchpoint for commerce, organizations often need to explore more platform options to support market growth. Once again, the Cloud is a genuine option.

Leveraging New Infrastructure models

New demands of fresh, critical workload create questions about priority and bandwidth. The push towards big data and in-line analytics is adding more and more demand of their core IT servers, often mainframes. IBM mainframes and z/OS is a great platform to run these core operations. The question this creates is how to provide the necessary headroom without incurring unplanned cost increases. Oftentimes the flexible capacity offered in a Cloud-based solution is simply waiting to be leveraged. Many mainframe organizations are looking at a parallel Cloud infrastructure to supplement core operations.

Getting Truly Fit for Purpose

Sometimes, some traditional z/OS workload might not all be equally important – some of it might be a historical circumstance. It then becomes a question of choices. Moving less mission-critical workload around provides a potentially lower TCO for applications which have lower inherent business value.

Conclusion – Flexibility, not just a virtual reality

While each use case is unique, the common DNA they share is that of flexibility. Responding to change, rapidly, is driving IT innovation. Finding smart ways to deliver bomb-proof business systems – core applications that already add value, already support the business – into new channels to support, quickly, going into a new territory, splitting data centers, reaching new clients, sometimes where the traditional platform isn’t appropriate for the model, is the demand.

Cloud makes a lot of sense as a viable, enterprise-scale solution in a growing range of cases. In a later blog we will look to make the case for exactly how Micro Focus stacks up as an enabling technology provider for such use cases. In the meantime, please check out the Enterpise 4.0 on-demand launch webinar and feel find me on Twitter to dicuss any aspects of this blog that interest you…

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