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Challenges Of Modernizing Mainframe Applications | Venkat Pillay

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Guest: Venkat Pillay (LinkedIn)
Company: CloudFrame (Twitter)

The mainframe is not going anywhere and is likely to play an important role in the cloud journey for many years to come. However, business requirements are changing rapidly so efforts are underway to modernize mainframe applications.

In this episode of TFiR Mainframe Matters recorded at the Open Mainframe Summit in Philadelphia, Swapnil Bhartiya catches up with Venkat Pillay, Founder and President of CloudFrame, to discuss the challenges of modernizing mainframe applications and where they fit in the hybrid cloud world.

Key highlights from this video interview:

  • Pillay recalls the Y2K issue and how people thought it would spell the end of the mainframe. While there were efforts to provide alternatives, there were a lot of interdependencies. Within the cloud space, Pillay explains the complexity of the mainframe providing reliability, performance, and resiliency without disrupting mission-critical applications, but still modernizing the application.
  • The most challenging aspect of modernizing the mainframe is not the UI, but the rapidly changing business requirements. Technology, methodologies, and practices have changed since the mainframe came to be. Still, 70-80% of modernization projects fail because they run out of time or they are unable to validate the results.
  • Although the mainframe and cloud are often considered separate, they should be considered as intertwined in a hybrid environment. Pillay explains the concept of workload management (WLM) in the mainframe and how open-source software like Kubernetes is trying to fill this gap as part of the operating system.
  • We are still a long way off from completely replacing the mainframe. Pillay believes that we need to think about which platform best fits that purpose, leveraging the strength of the platform. Azure, AWS, and the mainframe each have their own strengths which can be used as part of an optimum hybrid cloud environment.
  • Three ways to modernize: 1) greenfield – bring in something completely new, i.e., go in as if things did not exist, kick the current situation out, redo everything that was done 40 years ago. Works great for small applications, but impractical for large ones.  2) brownfield – just re-platform it by moving the application from the mainframe to something else, with minimal changes, and 3) blue development – partially move it to a different platform, partially keep it on the mainframe, but modernize the mission-critical application, which might be 10% to 20%.
  • Continuously modernizing a mainframe application not only means CI/CD, but also continuously transforming to the newer language and continuously validating its fit in the DevOps pipeline. These can be done by automating the processes, by bringing in a system integrator to rewrite the app, by bringing in transformation/conversion tools, and others.

The summary of the show is written by Emily Nicholls.

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