Why is a mainframe like the Panama Canal?

Last month I sailed on the Disney Wonder, a 2,400-passenger cruise ship. I discovered two days before the voyage that our passage through the Panama Canal was to be historic. To summarize – the Panama Canal opened in 1914, saving shipping two weeks’ journey time between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

A pair of locks raise ships coming from the ocean to the artificial Gatun Lake so they can cross the Isthmus of Panama, and are then lowered again on the other side of the lake. Pairing the locks enables ships to be moved in both directions at the same time.

Ships are getting bigger

More international trade means bigger ships. The current average is between 20,000 and 100,000 GRT (gross registered tons). My ship was 83,000 GRT. Up to 37% of the world’s container ships are now post Panamax – too big for the original locks – and would have to traverse South America, an inefficient and expensive alternative route.

So engineers built two new sets of locks, parallel to the current setup. The new locks opened for commercial traffic on 26 June 2016, but the old locks, now more than 100 years old, have never stopped moving traffic. The plan is for them to continue operating indefinitely.

So – why is that like a mainframe?

Essentially, both the Canal and the mainframe need to evolve with progress. Your mainframe has probably been around a while, and does a good job. It holds key information and performs valuable work. But just as those locks could not support bigger ships, mainframes may struggle to cope with growing organizational requirements and the arrival of the latest mobile gizmos and doodas. Implementing the latest security protocols, and keeping corporate data safe from unauthorized modification or disclosure, may be another issue.

However, modification isn’t going to be easy. Like the Canal, the mainframe needs to progress, without risky modifications, and while everything is still running.

Unlock safe mainframe access

Micro Focus tools are to the mainframe what those shiny new locks are to the Canal. They extend and modernize the mainframe, providing widespread and robust connection to host assets for more employees, partners, and customers. We make sure that access is secure, too, because anything else is a welcome mat to insider threats, malware and ransomware, and other cyber hacks such as the ‘outsider-as-insider’ threat.

With our technology, customers can extract, transform and copy data from that Unisys MCP into more flexible and accessible systems, and boost the power of your z Series. And all while that mainframe continues to work, without interruption or modification.

Just as new technology ‘unlocked’ the Canal to modern shipping, Micro Focus host connectivity software enables mainframe integration with corporate identity, access, and management systems – which is why we offer our Host Access Management and Security Server (MSS).

Without changing the mainframe OS or applications, MSS can lock down access, encrypt network data streams, eliminate forgotten password headaches, and generally make life much easier for IT operations staff. Our MSS links right to your identity access and management system. Don’t have one? Then talk to us about the benefits of our own IDM.

In summary

The mainframe has been around for a long time. It supports the business operations of many major organizations. It could be updated, without risky changes, while it is running. Micro Focus has the software and consulting services to help our mainframe clients on their journey. Just as the Panama Canal connects Atlantic and Pacific populations, so our software flexibly and securely connects the mainframe to user populations.

And why was my sailing historic? The Disney Wonder was the first passenger ship to ever transit the new locks. And I’ll always treasure this historic experience!

Ron LaPedis
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