Did you know that IBM mainframes continue to play a crucial role in the daily operations of most large enterprises? Current estimates are that 60 percent of the world’s core business applications and data reside on a member of the IBM z family and were built to run on the z/OS, the IBM flagship operating system for z. However, recent actions by IBM indicate that it is dramatically altering the z family and investing in operating systems other than z/OS, and this isn’t good news for many of their customers.
In this blog, we look at IBM’s current changes to System Z, new IBM investments that could affect millions of apps built for z/OS, what you can can do to eliminate or mitigate any adverse effects if you’re still running legacy z applications.
Once upon a time, IBM developed the mainframe platform originally known as MVS (now z), its z/OS operating system, and the CICS and IMS subsystems for longtime use. Enterprises adopted the mainframe to power their businesses because it was highly secure, reliable, and available and delivered outstanding performance. They hired COBOL and other legacy language programmers to build or maintain business-critical applications for the z platform and z/OS, invested in commercial software for the platform, or a combination of both.
For the most part, this was a successful business and IT model for several decades. Then, cracks appeared, due, in part, to actions from IBM, which developed a software portfolio for z internally and through external acquisition. From this commercial success, a first sales vehicle for System z was born: a combination of software and hardware roadmaps. You might be nodding along, thinking that this makes good sense or was inevitable, but no real harm done. However, there was a catch. New software versions and features were only compatible with the latest versions of System z and z/OS.
If you’re used to software lifecycles (Windows or iOS upgrades), this might not seem to be such a big deal. But Windows on a PC or even workstation clients is vastly different from an enterprise compute platform. For customers who did not require upgrades, the software lifecycle model introduced a significant hit to the budget, considering the high costs of a new System Z and the associated migration costs.
To top it all off, IBM was just getting started. Announcements about the end of support for previous software versions began and continue to this day. The latest example is the announcement of the end of support for COBOL V5 on April 30, 2020. Plus, the new features of COBOL V6.3 are only compatible with z15 (the latest z mainframe) and z/OS 2.4. And, that wasn’t all IBM did.
In 2015, IBM ramped up its strategy for wringing major investments from new customers while leaving existing mainframe customers out in the cold by launching LinuxONE. This platform uses z architecture but executes Linux applications and the Linux environment. The appeal to new customers was an investment in the platform's hardware capabilities rather than in its z/OS system.
In the next two years, IBM sold its mainframe software, including TADz, IWS, CICS IA, Fault Analyzer, File Manager and more, while keeping control of the development roadmap, to HCL. At the end of 2018, another agreement added more IBM software to the HCL portfolio, signaling further slowdown in IBM’s investment in legacy solutions. Reconciling this information with the HCL agreements, however, reveals another strategy—abandonment of the z/OS stack. Industry analysts and experts on IBM are warning of this potential, especially after the historic purchase of Red Hat.
IBM has two answers for the question of what legacy customers can do. One is to keep running transactional and batch applications while increasing mainframe capacity to support business growth. The other is to switch to Linux on Z or LinuxONE. However, neither is a real solution to the problem of the migration of its application core. Neither of these is optimal unless you’re a cash-and-CAPEX-rich enterprise.
A better solution for any enterprise is to divorce business applications from the muddy IBM mess. Application migration software takes legacy source code and recompiles programs in a new environment without changes to any business logic. This option costs less and is less risky and takes much less time than other options. Your applications will work just as they always have, but in an open, secure, high performance and highly scalable distributed environment. The result is your z/OS, COBOL and other legacy applications will run in a modern, open system environment that provides significant cost savings and technical agility to continue your ongoing IT transformation.
OpenFrame from TmaxSoft is the most complete solution for migrating your legacy mainframe applications. This is done with no changes to the business logic and allows for significant reduction in annual run costs for an increased investment in innovation. Want to learn more about how application migration can help customers who run legacy apps on z/OS? Get the new whitepaper, “Mainframe at a crossroads: Why application migration is the way forward.”
Kelly McClure is the Vice President of Global Marketing for TmaxSoft. Her 20-year marketing career spans both Fortune 1000 companies and fast growth technology startups. Kelly is responsible for leading TmaxSoft’s marketing strategy. She is experienced in aligning marketing and sales, building relevant content and messaging and developing integrated lead generation campaigns. Before joining TmaxSoft, Kelly served as the Vice President of Marketing for 10th Magnitude and held senior marketing roles with DataStax, BMC Software and Micro Focus. Kelly has a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and an MBA from Loyola University Chicago.