IBM this week revealed it has added the ability to set up testing environments on the IBM Cloud for z/OS mainframe applications.
In addition, on March 15, IBM will make available an IBM Z and cloud modernization stack to make it simpler to modernize mainframe applications by adding application programming interfaces (APIs) using a cloud-native set of DevOps tools that run in a Kubernetes environment.
Tarun Chopra, vice president for the IBM Z Hybrid Cloud, said IBM Z as-a-service on IBM Cloud for development and test eliminates the need to dedicate mainframe capacity to an application testing environment. Instead, mainframe application testing can now occur in the IBM Cloud, he added.
Currently available as a closed experimental today, IBM plans to make IBM Wazi as-a-Service (Wazi aaS) for z/OS generally available in the second half of this year. That offering will enable DevOps teams to self-provision an instance of a z/OS virtual server on a secure private space running on IBM Cloud.
That hybrid approach means application testing no longer disrupts mission-critical applications running in production environments on a mainframe, added Chopra. The overall time required to gain access to a z/OS development and test environments will drop from days or weeks to six minutes or less, he said.
At the same time, it will become easier to modernize mainframe applications by making them more accessible to other applications via a set of secure APIs. Many organizations today increase their technical debt by duplicating functions that already exist within mainframe environments simply because those functions are not easily accessible to developers. The IBM Z and cloud modernization stack makes it simpler to modernize mainframe applications to drive a digital business transformation initiative without increasing the overall technical debt an organization needs to service, noted Chopra.
While many workloads over the years have been migrated off mainframes or simply retired, the applications that run on z/OS today are still among the most mission-critical that organizations run. A recent IBM Institute for Business Value study found 71% of respondents said mainframe-based applications are still central to their business strategy. Four out of five respondents also noted they needed to modernize those applications, as well.
Modernizing mainframe applications is a less complicated endeavor than migrating them. The challenge is that building, deploying, maintaining and securing all the APIs required to do so represents a significant amount of effort. IBM said it is committed to simplifying the mainframe app modernization process.
One way or another, mainframe applications are becoming part of the larger distributed computing environment. Most organizations that have invested in mainframe applications continue to run them in on-premises environments because of the unique transaction processing capabilities a mainframe provides. Mainframe applications that have been migrated to the cloud generally run more slowly than they did when running natively on a mainframe. There may still be circumstances where migrating a mainframe application to the cloud makes sense as part of a larger IT strategy. However, like every other application being accessed over a wide area network (WAN) there will always be performance tradeoffs to consider.