Reassessing Z Mainframes: Optimization and Support

Despite all the talk about the cloud, optimizing these workhorse systems can result in value-added support with an eye toward innovation.

The IT world seems to have two opposing opinions when it comes to IBM® Z mainframes. Publicly, companies are all about pursuing faster, cheaper, more modern alternatives, like the cloud.

However, privately, it’s a different story altogether.

IT decision-makers might say the goal is to move everything to the cloud, but the reality is the majority of these companies know they cannot move away from mainframes.

Can you imagine the risk of an airline moving away from mainframes? All of their bookings, flight plans, crew planning, maintenance, and air traffic control are run on this legacy hardware.

What about the banking industry? Ninety-two out of 100 leading banks use mainframes for processing their large-scale transactions.

And 23 out of the top 25 retail organizations use mainframes to power transactions and manage inventory.

As a matter of fact, mainframes are used by 71% of Fortune 500 companies, specifically IBM® Z systems.

Flip the script

The accepted view in the industry is that mainframes are the ultimate technical debt, and technical debt must be replaced.

But maybe that’s not the correct way to look at it.

For example, banks spend over $250B on IT costs annually, according to ABA Risk and Compliance. Some estimates place annual maintenance of mainframe legacy systems in the range of 50% to 80% of that figure.

Maybe it’s really not about the mainframe technology, but about the cost of maintaining these mainframes instead? Perhaps the conversation needs to shift from replacing the mainframe to restructuring the technical debt that comes with it.

Origina CEO and Founder Tomás O’Leary and SVP of Global Marketing and Thought Leadership Hari Candadai explored this topic in Episode 34 of our podcast, “Revisiting the Plight of the Mainframe.”

Perhaps the conversation needs to shift from replacing the mainframe to restructuring the technical debt that comes with it.

Address the pain points

There are three main pain points IT leaders are experiencing regarding Z mainframes:

  • High maintenance costs. What are you getting in terms of value? Are you receiving good support?
  • Skills gap. Many of the people with the skills to work on mainframes (mainly baby boomers) have begun retiring. On top of that, several years ago, IBM made a conscious decision to let people trained on mainframes go in favor of new hires who know newer systems. How are you going to fill that discrepancy?
  • Modernization. How can Z platforms be updated? How do you change some mainframe applications to support innovation? And how can we ensure interoperability?

A good example of addressing these issues is Southern California Edison, one of the largest electric utilities in the United States.

“A few years ago, Southern California Edison’s IT organization was under pressure to remediate and strengthen their networks to protect themselves and their customers from potential service issues due to wildfires,” says Candadai. “At the same time, they were rolling out a customer-facing system that was consuming a lot of their resources.”

They needed to redirect budgetary dollars toward their new initiatives and wanted a partner who could help them reduce their current mainframe maintenance costs while still supporting them.

Origina partnered with Southern California Edison to bolster support for their Z mainframe software, ensure interoperability with new systems, and reduce maintenance costs that could then be reinvested into newer projects.

“They would have potentially been under pressure to replace or would have been dealing with end of support issues,” O’Leary says. “Ultimately, it’s about changing the mindset.”

Want to learn more about optimizing Z Mainframes? Listen to the full podcast.

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