Is re-hosting your mainframe really future-proofing your business?

May 28, 2021

The mainframe is big, expensive – and often essential. For many businesses, it has been the core component of their IT for decades, diligently processing high-volume transactions with unmatched reliability and performance.

However, times are changing. In today’s volatile, fast-paced world, agility pays off. Businesses that can react faster, adapt quicker, and match their infrastructure to demand are best placed to gain a competitive advantage. The growth of Cloud computing has been a key enabler of this agility, allowing access to limitless scale, capacity, and flexibility: all things that the mainframe struggles to provide.

Many businesses choose to re-host their mainframes, moving essential applications to cheaper, modern hardware alternatives, as a way to retire their ‘legacy’ technology and adopt a more distributed and agile IT model to support their business for the future, as well as getting rid of costly mainframe maintenance and licensing fees.

But traditional mainframe re-hosting might not actually be the easy modernization solution it appears to be—and is actually much more restrictive than it seems at first. Although it doesn’t involve the change in skills and development paradigm of a re-factoring or re-engineering project (where the mainframe applications are converted or rebuilt in a modern computing language to run in a non-mainframe environment) its benefits are limited.

The main cause of this is the fact that in a traditional re-hosting scenario the mainframe code is not converted; it is simply picked up and dropped into a new environment. To run it, the mainframe environment must be emulated through specialized software.

What businesses find is that they move from one type of lock-in (to the mainframe and IBM software) to another (to the re-hoster’s emulation software). They must still develop in the legacy code, and they must still adhere to the restrictive development practices they used on the mainframe—the only difference is that it generally costs them less.

Businesses with a more forward-looking view may start to see problems here. There is much value to be gained by being able to develop mainframe applications; modern Agile and DevOps practices (which need modern code) create much more potential for competitive differentiation and fast responses to market changes. Using a modern language—rather than the somewhat antiquated COBOL coding language—gives the business a far less limited talent pool of developers to hire.

Of course, rehosted applications can be refactored or reengineered later. But if the code has not yet been modified, a separate project will be required to do it. For businesses who have already spent time and money on a rehosting project, it will essentially mean starting from square one, right from the mainframe itself.

To truly future-proof the business, the core applications must be converted to a modern computing language, and before now, that has meant considerable time, cost, and risk. However, the technology now exists to automatically convert mainframe code into modern, open-source languages without the need for emulation.

Asysco has one such solution. Our automated transformation engine is able to test, convert and drop the mainframe code into a modern environment whilst still being able to develop in COBOL—essentially re-hosting and factoring the mainframe applications at the same time. Once the system is transitioned, the engine is no longer needed, so there’s no lock-in. Businesses can minimize disruption, save immediate cost and start developing applications whenever they choose—whether that’s just a few months or a few years. And all of that without any incremental risk compared to traditional re-hosting.

If the aim of your mainframe modernization initiative is to future-proof your business, you may want to rethink traditional re-hosting. Speak to us about how Asysco can help you modernize your mainframe quickly and efficiently while giving your business the best possible flexibility and choice for the future.

Want to learn more? Download our re-hosting E-book or found out more here.