Consider these key approaches to help get the most value from your mainframe

By Petra Goude, Global Practice Leader for Core Enterprise & zCloud at Kyndryl

Businesses in every industry are under increasing pressure to advance and transform their IT environments, particularly with workloads running on mainframes. Many executives say the mainframe is key to their operations due to its security, reliability and performance, but they also want to benefit from the flexibility, data accessibility and innovation the cloud provides.

To enable a successful IT transformation, enterprises need to embrace and implement initiatives to modernize their mainframe estate. To gain more insights into the chosen strategies and results of mainframe modernization projects, Kyndryl commissioned Coleman Parkes Research to survey 500 business and IT leaders from mid- and large-sized enterprises across industries, and craft the 2023 State of Mainframe Modernization Survey Report.

If you’re thinking about modernizing your IT estate, these four approaches can help you transform and grow your business — and help you get the most value from your mainframe.

1. Mainframe modernization is not an all-or-nothing game

Most organizations are not adhering to a single approach of staying on or moving off the mainframe, but instead are adopting a hybrid model that uses a combination of approaches. Ninety-five percent of survey respondents said they are moving at least some applications off to the cloud but only 1% will fully move off. On average, two-thirds of their workloads are modernized on the mainframe and integrated with the cloud or distributed environments, while 37% is moved off the platform. 

This is what we call “the right workload on the right platform” approach. As organizations begin their IT transformation journey, they need to decide if they want to invest in, maintain or divest the mainframe. They must then carefully determine for each workload or application whether it should stay on the mainframe, be integrated with the hyperscalers or private clouds, or would be better suited in the public cloud. By taking a holistic, end-to-end approach to mainframe modernization, enterprises can realize the best business outcomes from their IT environment.

2. Focus on security and resiliency 

Whichever pathway is chosen — whether to modernize on, integrate with, or move off the mainframe — security is the top concern, as mainframes often function as the hub of complex business operations. Additionally, security is one of the most crucial elements to the success of a modernization project. 

To modernize their IT environment with confidence, organizations must carefully evaluate the security risks associated with their chosen platform and invest in training on mainframe security and access controls. Without the right plan and cross-platform expertise, the journey to the cloud can create new threats and reliability issues.

3. Don’t just maintain the status quo

Despite the complexity of modernization projects and the need to continue running the day-to-day operations, organizations can’t afford to just maintain their mainframe as is. They will miss out on a significant opportunity to drive more value from their mainframe estate. 

The financial benefits that can be achieved by implementing a mainframe modernization initiative are substantial. Across the board, businesses are seeing 9% to 11% cost savings because of their mainframe modernization projects — collectively, this amounts to $12.5 billion of savings per year. 

Obviously, this has a positive impact on an organization’s bottom-line results and profitability. For example, telecom provider BT Group, a Kyndryl customer in the UK, is targeting £17M, or about $21.7 million, in annual savings by modernizing its mainframe environment.

4. Work with experienced mainframe modernization experts

Although the business benefits can be substantial, a common inhibitor to advancing mainframe modernization initiatives is often the lack of mainframe expertise within organizations. The availability of skills remains a concern for businesses, as many existing experts are nearing retirement and new generations of tech professionals aren’t readily trained to work with mainframe technology.

No matter where a company is on its mainframe modernization journey, working with a third-party advisor with expert IT consultants can help to fill the skills gap and provide the deep expertise and experience required to drive these complex IT transformations.

Next steps
Here are our recommended steps to help you start or accelerate your mainframe modernization initiative:

  • Take an application-centric approach. Using proven methodologies, we start with a comprehensive view and assessment of the application portfolio, the application dependencies and data flows. We then identify the applications that need to be transformed to increase flexibility and agility, and perform the modernization cost/benefit analysis.

  • Leverage partners. On top of our own expertise, we leverage an ecosystem of industry-leading partners, including the large public cloud providers and key technology partners for application discovery and scanning, modernization such as rehosting and refactoring, data transformation and virtualization, and other key areas.

  • Deploy consulting expertise. As a trusted consultant, we want to do what is right for the customer. Our approach is “the right workload on the right platform,” and this is dependent on your business needs and where you want to go on your transformation journey, both on platform and in cloud.

  • Expand skills. As many organizations are challenged to find and retain mainframe skills, our vast pool of certified professionals can provide the expertise to supplement your teams.
  • Leverage actionable insights via Kyndryl Bridge. This open integration platform provides a unified experience across the enterprise, supported by data and AI, to drive real-time visibility and operational insights into your mainframe data.

Determining the best mainframe modernization strategy and adopting the right platform approach will enable your organization to future-proof the mainframe environment and grow the business.




Petra Goude, Global Practice Leader for Core Enterprise & zCloud at Kyndryl