In 2017, we expect many mainframe organizations will make great strides towards ‘mainstreaming’ their mainframes, empowering the large enterprises using them to deliver better digital customer experiences.
The digital customer experience at many enterprises still depends on the mainframe – because that’s where their most critical back-end transaction processing, business logic, and databases run. The mainframe stands alone in its ability to power the current explosion in mobile transactional applications, securely and reliably. According to the most recent statistics from IBM’s SHARE user group, 92 of the world’s 100 largest banks; 23 of the top 25 U.S. retailers; 9 out of the world’s 10 largest insurance companies; and overall, 71 percent of global Fortune 500 companies, continue to use IBM mainframes.
The DevOps and Continuous Delivery movements emphasize faster time-to-market for exceptional customer experiences, with mainframe code being indispensable towards that effort. According to a recent Forrester survey of IT and application development professionals at mainframe user organizations, 57% of new business initiatives always involve the mainframe, and 39% sometimes involve it. Here’s the challenge: today’s DevOps teams view COBOL applications as “legacy” because of their long history and complexity, and the fact that many of the tools currently used to manage them are either lacking or outdated. DevOps teams working on multi-platform apps can only be as fast as their weakest link. The unfamiliar, arcane “green screen” mainframe environment and lack of automated testing can present a major speedbump. And bimodal IT—which advocates for respective platform experts to work at different speeds and with different processes (for example, Agile versus Waterfall)—is exactly the problem, not the solution. How fast can a boat get to its intended destination, if everyone is rowing at different speeds with different paddles?
This will change dramatically in 2017. New tools will empower developers, even those with little or no previous hands-on mainframe experience, to enhance COBOL applications with the same ease, speed, and granularity as their distributed, mobile and cloud apps. As a result, developers will be able to better leverage the mainframe to quickly fulfill new functional requirements and overcome bottlenecks in cross-platform application delivery. This new “mainstreamed” mainframe will enable DevOps teams to overcome their fears associated with managing necessarily evolved and involved COBOL applications and empower them to more nimbly respond to relentlessly changing business conditions. This will, in effect, eradicate the notion of COBOL code as being legacy, outdated and irrelevant.
Organizations that successfully “de-legacy” their mainframe environments by applying DevOps best practices to all their platforms, including the mainframe, can expect significant benefits. More than 40 percent of the Forrester survey respondents also noted that such practices have resulted in shorter development cycles and faster response to business needs. In addition, 35 percent are achieving improved customer experiences and 34 percent are realizing cost savings by embracing innovations in mainframe DevOps. The result: A unified IT organization that will be able to rapidly, securely and confidently fulfill new business requirements, regardless of the platforms involved.