Our vision on the mainframe in 2020

Antoine Kerrinckx

Chief Executive Officer Atos in Belgium & Luxembourg

The Mainframe as a Service (MaaS) era has well and truly taken off. It is at the core of the digital transformation for many large customers that Atos supports on a daily basis.


Much like most innovations in the automotive industry that have originated from research and development within the Formula 1 arena, the standardised x86 mainframe-class machines that we build today are the result of our long experience in the domain of supercomputers. Yes, we are leaving the mainframe era, but that is not an end in itself. Atos doesn’t aim to replace on premise machines with cloud alternatives. Our aim is to guide our clients in their application transformation towards an architecture that is both more robust and less expensive, thanks to open source and standard technologies.

A successful example of such transition is the project we have undertaken at the Belgian National Registry, replacing the former mainframe-based architecture in 2019 with a new one based on mainframe-class x86 servers. This was a drastic transformation indeed: the legacy mainframe architecture has been completely switched and entirely replaced. Since then, the modernisation of the National Registry has proved its worth at various levels: faster response times, less dependency on third-party software vendors, less expensive test environments, and simplified system maintenance. The overall TCO has decreased by no less than 70%.

In order to reach such target, it is essential that you can rely on a sufficient amount of high-level mainframe talent to ensure the transformation of legacy applications, which remain a fundamental asset within the enterprise. We have enough resource capital available to preserve this heritage while reducing our customer’s TCO. One basic rule prevails: the engineering resources are always the starting point. Together with our customer, we will analyze and discuss the various options based on the human dynamics. This will lead to one of the two following scenarios.

In the first scenario, we replatform the mainframe. This scenario requires a sufficient amount of developers experienced in mainframe languages such as Cobol, and their long-term availability within the enterprise platform. They thus become the main resource, on top of which you will need new talent which can transform and adapt the existing code to the cloud.

In the second scenario, we make use of a MaaS pay per use model. This requires drawing up an inventory of the application layer, in order to define the business logic. In this scenario, the required rewriting will be handled directly by a new team, charged with developing more modern application layers. This will lead to a gradually diminished usage of the mainframe. This team will drive the decrease, and the previous team no longer needs to focus on Cobol, allowing them to take on new challenges.

In both scenarios, the digital transformation basically amounts to a human transformation, even before it becomes a technology shift. When relying on Mainframe as a Service for your transformation project, you are guaranteed to enjoy the following crucial advantages:

    1. service continuity, throughout the various transformation phases;
    2. cost control and optimisation (pay per use);
    3. the best possible path towards modernisation and “cloudification”.

Our partnership with numerous enterprises has enabled us to build a renowned digitalisation strategy, as acknowledged in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. It involves application modernisation and replacing the historical mainframe infrastructures with a mainframe-class x86 standardised appliance, which results directly from the HPC innovations. This transformation will lead to a significant reduction of both the exploitation costs and the energy footprint.