A bright future ahead for heritage

Tobias Leicher

Technical Specialist for Mainframes IBM & zChampion for Modernization and Rüdiger Stumm, Manager Technical Sales Software on System z DACH, IBM

IBM Mainframe has reinvented itself several times in the course of the last decades. But throughout this continuous journey towards innovation and customer excellence, one focus has never shifted. Up to today and for a long time coming, the mainframe is and will continue to be a cornerstone in IBM’s enterprise strategy. Not surprisingly, considering the many unique values delivered by this platform.

The mainframe delivers some unparalleled value propositions when it comes to meeting business critical transactional workloads, high I/O and superior security and encryption demands. Further, there is no other platform that can guarantee the highest resiliency and data consistency over the complete technology stack. These are the building blocks in the mainframe’s DNA that customers value and need for their core business IT.

IBM has invested significantly in maintaining mainframe’s role as an integral player in modern IT architectures, enabling the platform to provide up-to-date technology while protecting customers’ investments. Without compromising on reliability and security, the mainframe has continuously been extended and upgraded, to allow an ongoing transformation and modernization of the core applications that customers have invested in and are relying on.

The Red Hat OpenShift container platform is a very central component to achieve an integrated hybrid cloud across all platforms from public cloud providers to private platforms. Customers build their application artefacts once and may deploy them anywhere. IBM Z was the first non-x86 platform that was supported.

Bridging heritage and future journeys
Most organizations have embarked on a journey towards the cloud. Each will follow their own path, with a specific combination of private and public cloud, depending on the heritage they bring from past decades. In most cases, organizations still heavily rely on these applications residing on the mainframe, for various reasons. On the one hand, the mainframe is best in class when it comes to manageability of complex IT topologies, reliability and latency required for truly committed transactions. On the other hand, the level of security and data governance offered by mainframes is often the best and most efficient way to meet the highest regulative requirements.

IBM Cloud uses the IBM Z technology for purposes that can’t be fulfilled by other technologies. The crypto facilities of IBM Z, for instance, are first in industry and can be used via the IBM Cloud as a Service as well as databases that are not accessible even by privileged users like administrators. These technologies can be found in the IBM Cloud Hyper Protect

Bringing analytics close to the data
Integrating the mainframe into a modern, (partly) cloud-based application landscape offers unique advantages. IBM has invested massively in the integration of IBM Z and in cloud native technology.

Regarding modern IT architectures, there are many ways to integrate the mainframe and the core business data stored on the mainframe. The principle of “Data Gravity”, for instance, which aims to bring analytics to the data instead of the other way around, is translated into analytical solutions residing close to the data on a mainframe. IBM has enhanced the IBM Z Platform with the Analytics Accelerator for Db2 on z/OS to facilitate complex analytical SQL queries to be executed transparently from within a mainframe application. This is even possible within business transactions in real time and without involving the Mainframe CPU. The well-known Watson Machine
Learning was available for mainframes as first on-premise platform, and meanwhile this technology has already fuelled many innovative applications and middleware on the mainframe. Other analytical scenarios may benefit from the data virtualization features that allow direct access to mainframe- based data, be it Db2 relational databases, IMS databases, VSAM datasets, SMF data, Adabas databases etc.. Other application scenarios may require data replication to various targets, incl. Kafka data streaming technology. There’s hardly any requirement in analytics and data processing that cannot be met with existing mainframe technology.

Just another container workload, with benefits
Using mainframes as an integral player in hybrid cloud infrastructures provides many benefits. Since RedHat OpenShift is supported on mainframes, it can run Kubernetes-managed container workloads the same way as on any other platform. Non-functional requirements like latency, data proximity, highest security, encryption, resiliency, vertical and horizontal scalability make the deployment of containers on IBM Z a logical choice. In addition, there’s technology to access existing application functionality “as a Service” like any other RESTenabled service. Finally, mainframe-based services can be managed by Kubernetes as if they were cloud-native services, and developers select those services from a catalogue as they would with any other service.

The key enabler for mainframes being an integral part of state-of-the-art IT architectures is the availability of sophisticated DevOps technologies. Mainframes are a full-featured member of modern CI/CD pipelines and agile development with mainframes as target for development artefacts
is a reality.

So, it is highly recommended to consider mainframe technology in future IT strategies to secure investments, protect valuable assets and have a platform alternative for best fit-for-purpose workload deployment.

The IBM Z platform will remain essential for first class enterprise requirements and IBM will continue to expand the technological leadership further by investing strongly into the platform.


Of the Fortune 100, 44 of the top 50 banks, and 8 of the top 10 insurers use IBM Z


of customer-facing applications are completely or very dependent on mainframe processing


Mainframes are central to these organizations’ businesses, with an average of 65% of their revenue running or touching their mainframes