Despite all the advances that have revolutionized the information technology sector, mainframes ─ those massive computer systems first introduced in the 50s ─ remain at the heart of enterprise data processing. There are many reasons why – from resistance to change, to lack of time, resources, and skills needed to modernize.

Mainframe Obstacles to Digital Transformation

Organizations that continue to embrace mainframe systems are facing repercussions for not taking advantage of newer technologies like the cloud. Key among them: the inability to pursue, achieve, and benefit from digital transformation.

That’s not to say digital transformation isn’t doable with mainframe systems. It’s possible to modernize mainframes, implement incremental improvements, gradually add capabilities to existing core systems, and update applications. They can even be modernized to the point of being able to work with cloud-based systems as part of a hybrid IT environment.

However, mainframe systems tend to be large, complex, and fraught with technical debt and limited or nonexistent documentation. Those factors, alone, make digital transformation difficult.

Between equipment investment, contracts, software licenses, maintenance, upgrades, power consumption, operational inefficiencies, and other factors, mainframe systems also tend to be expensive. That takes away budget dollars that could potentially fund more innovative technologies.

In addition, the legacy applications and technologies that mainframe systems employ are often cumbersome and inhospitable to change. That can make modernization efforts risky.

Mainframe Skills Disadvantages

There are also challenges stemming from the decreasing pool of professionals skilled in mainframe legacy programming languages like COBOL/DB2 and NATURAL/ADABA. Many of those with the necessary mainframe skills are retiring or moving on to other in-demand programming languages.

The number of academic institutions offering mainframe courses, including COBOL, is decreasing, leading to fewer IT professionals entering the workforce with mainframe skills. That makes ongoing support difficult ─ and innovation even more so.

It’s also not easy to integrate mainframes into agile development processes – which are essential for quicker time to market, customer satisfaction, and innovation, and are increasingly considered “business as usual” among development teams.

Fortunately, migrating mainframes to the cloud doesn’t have to be onerous, time-consuming, or cost-prohibitive – particularly with the help of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and its partners.

AWS Mainframe Migration Resources

AWS offers a variety of resources that help simplify cloud migrations, including mainframe migration. Using these tools and resources can help make migrations more cost-effective and overcome many of the challenges that make organizations hesitant to move forward.

The Cloud

First, there’s the cloud itself. By nature, the cloud is flexible, elastic, scalable, secure, and cost-effective. There’s no infrastructure to invest in or maintain, and capital expenses are exchanged for operational expenses. Resources are available on-demand, typically priced using a pay-as-you-go model.

The AWS cloud, specifically, employs the most extensive, reliable, and secure global cloud infrastructure. Users have access to more services and more features within those services than is available from any other cloud provider. That includes compute, storage, networking, data lakes and analytics, databases, IoT, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and more. In addition, the AWS cloud spans 81 Availability Zones within 25 geographic regions around the world. More are on the way.

AWS Migration Acceleration Program (MAP) for Mainframe

An extension of the AWS MAP program, MAP for Mainframe features processes, tools, and services to simplify cloud migration projects. It features a three-step approach to help reduce the uncertainty, complexity, and cost associated with cloud migration.

  1. Assess Readiness. The migration readiness assessment helps you identify gaps along the six dimensions of the AWS Cloud Adoption Framework – business, process, people, platform, operations, and security. This helps identify the capabilities required in the migration and build a TCO model for the project. Also included is an Optimization and Licensing Assessment, which provides recommendations for optimizing licenses on AWS.
  2. Mobilize Resources. This phase accelerates migration decisions by providing clear guidance on migration plans that improve the success of the migration. It also helps fix capability gaps identified in the assessment phase.
  3. Migrate or Modernize Your Workloads. This is where data migration happens, and the cloud environment and applications are optimized. Financial incentives are available to help offset migration costs such as labor, training, and the expense of sometimes running two environments in parallel.

MAP for Mainframe also offers best practices and tools to help reduce costs at every stage of mainframe migration, including incentives to help eligible customers offset the costs of simultaneously running two environments during the migration.

General Migration Resources

AWS helps set expectations and answer questions related to migration projects with FAQs. Also available are mainframe modernization blog posts, videos, and webinars from industry experts, AWS customers, and AWS Partners, which provide lessons learned and other useful information. More general resources and information are available here.

The AWS Mainframe Migration Competency Program

Even with all the resources available, taking on a mainframe migration project can seem overwhelming. With the AWS Competency Program, organizations don’t have to go it alone. The program identifies and validates AWS Partners with demonstrated technical expertise and proven customer success in mainframe migrations. Among those partners is ClearScale.

ClearScale is an AWS Premier Consulting Partner because of our proven capability to handle complex migrations to the AWS cloud and our deep knowledge of and experience in using Amazon’s best-in-class services. Our AWS Migration Competency is based on our extensive experience that spans hundreds of migrations.

Migrate Your Mainframe with ClearScale

Mainframe systems don’t have to impede migration to the cloud and the ability to reap what the cloud offers. Nor do the benefits currently valued by organizations using mainframes have to be lost due to a cloud migration. Working with the right migration partner makes the difference.

Get the Free eBook
Migrate and Modernize Mainframes with ClearScale and AWS