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3 Points to Consider When Modernizing IBM Z

Modernizing IBM Z

IT executives are increasingly under pressure to manage and create disruption. Application development is proceeding at a fantastic rate and users are clamoring for broad new capabilities. Major databases for large corporations end up in the back end on secure, high-speed IBM Z* servers. But many of them are running applications developed decades ago.

Enter the modernization of IBM Z. Modernization is, simply put, the changing of paradigms to support the way business is evolving. Every discussion about modernization needs to include several points that will affect efficiencies of the IBM Z environment. The goal should be to determine the right platform for each workload. When discussing modernization, you should always consider these three points:

1. Cloud

Let’s face it: IBM Z has been a cloud for a long, long time. Many of the concepts currently associated with clouds began with the mainframe. IBM deploys cloud as either private, public or hybrid.

With private clouds, organizations have requirements to use on-premise infrastructures such as define bandwidth, equity in their investments, specific security policies and more. The data, governance and processes lie within the structure of the corporation. Workloads to consider are the containerization of high bandwidth applications or existing IBM middleware applications.

With dedicated clouds, organizations have strict requirements for isolating their security policies and a concern about system performance. In this way, organizations seek the security and compliance benefits of the public cloud. The data, governance and processes lie within the cloud specifically with protection provided by virtual private networks, in most cases.

With public clouds, organizations use encrypted multitenant data with shared processing models. The public cloud is used when organizations are seeking security and compliance benefits. Workloads for both the dedicated and the public cloud can be similar and include applications such as new cloud-native development, migrations from aging hardware, the need for artificial intelligence services, increasing size and growth of data sets, and workloads that can be “bursty.”

Multicloud and hybrid cloud are also common. Multicloud environments utilize two or more public clouds and can also contain multiple private clouds. The assets that make up the multicloud are distributed and can contain software, applications, APIs and containers across several cloud hosting environments. Hybrid cloud environments utilize two or more clouds that can be private, community or public adaptations but they remain as distinct entities. The hybrid cloud connects managed assets like applications, services, APIs and containers with the appropriate cloud resources.

2. Containers

A container system is really an engine that allows most payloads to be encapsulated as a portable, lightweight, self-relying container that can be utilized in standard operations, and can run efficiently and consistently on most platforms, including IBM Z. They can contain OSes, static websites, user databases, web front ends, queues, analytics databases and more. All of this can be manipulated by development VMs, QA servers, public clouds, production clusters or even a contributor’s laptop.

Clients are interested in container technology for myriad reasons. From a development perspective, containers eliminate the headaches of creating environments as well as the many differences between environments. Additionally, lightweight containers can run on a single machine sharing the same OS kernel, taking advantage of layering along with the sharing of common files and structures. Containers take advantage of RAM and disk efficiencies as well, and can even be portable across various environments and infrastructures.

3. Microservices

From an architectural perspective, microservices is a story of monolithic applications that were written to do everything to microservices, where each application does its part to contribute to the whole. From a service orientation perspective, it’s a story of service oriented architecture (SOA), with a focus on reuse for technical integration issues along with functional decomposition, business issues and business APIs.

Microservices fit very well into IBM Z environments. They are typically developed by small teams where each member understands the functionality and makeup of the code. Microservices are usually developed independent of each other and thus have limited dependencies on other services. The language used for development usually doesn’t matter as the microservice is a called entity, allowing developers to use the most efficient language to provide the best functionality. Circles of microservices are also known to scale and fail independently, thus isolating any issues that may develop.

Microservices do have their challenges including greater operational issues due to moving parts, duplication of effort and other issues with end-to-end testing. But ultimately, microservices are heavily used in the pursuit of IBM Z modernization.

Choosing the Right Platform

One of the most important things about architecture is matching the requirements to the solution. Not everything belongs on IBM Z, but a simple decision-making process can help you decide.

For example, if security is critical to an application, then the IBM Z platform sets the gold standard, and those features come standard with mainframe hardware and software. If downtime is critical to the business, then the IBM Z platform retains industry-leading availability. If you expect your business to grow over the next five years, then the IBM Z platform is optimal for growing size and complexity. If you support hundreds of thousands of accounts or large employee networks, the IBM Z platform likely has the lowest total cost of ownership. IBM Z hardware architecture maximizes the efficiency of the CPU, memory and I/O beyond the architectures of other servers.

The modernization of IBM Z is well underway, and you owe it to your organization to research the possibilities and take advantage of the latest solutions.

John Shuman is an IBM executive IT architect currently acting in the role of chief architect for a large financial company.

Patrick Stanard is a mainframe integration architect for IBM Global Technology Services. He’s a 35 year professional in the industry spanning roles as a systems programmer, developer, manager, business unit executive, affiliate faculty member and director of operations. He has a Bachelor of Science in CIS from Saginaw Valley State University and an MBA from Michigan State University.



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