Four Ways to Evolve Your Mainframe Strategy for the Digital World
The visionaries amongst the mainframe community are continually searching for a better way to use the platform’s capabilities.
By Corry Hong ,
As the owner of more than 50 corporate entities around the globe, UNICOM Global has experienced many technical challenges and business concerns when conveying the unique benefits of the mainframe strategy. This is especially important as UNICOM operates multiple complex data centers housing IBM Z* mainframe, IBM Power Systems*, HP and UNIX*/Linux* servers worldwide for different lines of business that require large real estate campuses. These include UNICOM Technology Park I & II, and the iconic UNICOM Science and Technology Park, one of the world’s largest IT facilities, with over 2 million square feet of office buildings on more than 1,100 acres, and with over 2 megawatts of self-generating renewable-energy to run the information technology real estate (“IT RE”) infrastructures to support customers in over 170 countries.
The company’s progressive integration IT RE strategy standardizes business goals and aligns them with the specific architecture objectives of our IT RE investments to enable rapid digital transformation. These IT RE investments have yielded digital transformation innovation centers, artificial intelligence (AI) R&D labs, structured and unstructured data archiving and warehouse repositories, and tiered data centers with disaster recovery layers. To drive a successful vision-to-action plan to grow the new digital business (separate from the company’s traditional business), UNICOM has deployed a disruptive integration business strategy, which has provided an elegant model for designing, planning, implementing and governing an enterprise IT architecture to support the new “Infinite Business Matrix” model.
4 Pillars of ModernizationThe mainframe is one of the most advanced technology platforms on the planet, yet it often remains behind the curve when it comes to digital transformation, new customer experience and efficiency savings. The key to a successful digital transformation is to take a non-intrusive approach that limits coding changes and reduces the burden on already overstretched mainframe developers. Any strategy should include the following four important pillars of modernization:
1. Mobile enablement. Modernizing mainframe access is a must, as traditional terminal emulator access ties users to one location and is incompatible with mobile working. Developing individual web and mobile interfaces is time consuming and especially difficult for larger installations running hundreds of applications. An alternative approach is to use enabling technologies to create a single mobile gateway to multiple mainframe applications. For example, modern session managers can handle communication between host applications and the browser to support access from mobile devices and interaction using a touchscreen. Providing a single, controlled access method also strengthens security by reducing the number of potential entry points into an organization.
2. Application modernization. The focus of application modernization tends to be on updating the appearance of the traditional green-screen mainframe application to create a more intuitive UI–for example by replacing function keys with point and-click navigation and updating the overall appearance so that it looks like any other user-friendly web application. Even greater benefits can be achieved by realigning legacy applications around modern business processes to deliver a more user-centric experience. For example, process steps from multiple line of business (LoB) applications can be combined into a single, smooth online customer onboarding experience.
3. Operational intelligence. Traditional mainframe reporting mechanisms often fail to provide IT and LoB leaders with the right information about problems and risks in order to make informed decisions. This reinforces the image of the mainframe as overly complex and acts as a barrier (real and perceived) to progress. SMF, SNA and RACF* mainframe data can be brought to the forefront within analytics and AI platforms such as Splunk and Watson. This can help organizations drive business insights regarding complex data while proactively identifying areas for operational improvement.
4. Automated assistance. Enterprises that are facing mainframe skills shortages are turning to a new generation of technicians to support and modernize their critical applications. These organizations need to upskill new recruits without leaning too heavily on experienced mainframe staff who may have limited time to offer training. AI and machine learning are the game changers here as they make a new and more intelligent class of chatbot possible, which can guide and educate new recruits in order to reduce time to productivity.
The IBM Z platform has evolved to become more open, adaptable and agile than ever before, designed to work with new and emerging technologies to transform the way that companies do business. With so much potential for positive change, where can your mainframe take you next?
Corry Hong is the President and CEO of UNICOM Global. He founded UNICOM Systems Inc. in 1982. Today, the UNICOM Global group consists of more than 50 entities delivering software and services to enterprises worldwide.
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