July 04, 2022

Mainframes can still be accessed from the cloud

Mainframes are an essential computing component for many enterprises, but they do not necessarily need to take the form of on-site infrastructure. They can be accessed from any platform, including the cloud. The business climate is changing and digital transactions are growing at an exponential rate. For many enterprises, particularly in the banking, finance and e-commerce sectors, business leaders are looking at innovative solutions to the mainframe vs cloud debate.

Mainframes are high performance computers that can process up to one trillion digital transactions every day. They play a central role for many industries and are commonly regarded as the foundation of modern business networks. With cloud migration shaking up the IT landscape, these corporate data centres are now being modernised to work with a cloud-based architecture.

Integration with the cloud means that businesses can enjoy the perks of cloud computing, while still maintaining the benefits of a highly secure on-premise data centre. SEACOM Business offers enterprise-grade cloud services to companies in South Africa, including cloud infrastructure. These solutions will take an organisation’s computing into the modern era.

Mainframe computing in the cloud environment

Combining the mainframe and cloud environment gives enterprises the best of both worlds: a highly secure, private data centre together with a flexible, high performance distributed network. Unlike mainframe computing, the cloud offers real time scalability. Using the cloud translates into cost savings for organisations looking for an agile networking solution.

Most banks still use mainframes because of their capacity to handle large digital workloads, quickly and securely. Mainframes are ideal for processing credit card payments and other types of financial transactions. They are also commonly used to process highly sensitive data, such as health records or confidential governance documents.

The Covid-19 pandemic served as a catalyst for banks migrating to the cloud. While core business functions continue to be processed by the mainframe, the cloud is increasingly being used for customer-facing systems (e.g call centres and apps) and employee tools (e.g. email and videoconferencing).

Benefits of using the mainframe with the cloud

By reserving the mainframe for critical workloads only, less essential tasks can be done on the cloud. Stakeholders benefit from faster processing speeds and higher security when businesses harness the power of both cloud and mainframe computing. This approach supports innovation, especially when existing apps are aligned and IT leaders develop new capabilities in the mainframe.

Regulatory pressures have meant that mainframes are used for processing critical business data onsite. Replacing the mainframe is not viable for many industries because of the security risks involved. To mitigate this, many enterprises are adopting a hybrid approach and using the cloud for front-end applications and the mainframe for back-end core functions. In this hybrid approach, there are high levels of enterprise security and cyber resilience.

Saving costs with a hybrid mainframe-cloud environment

Mainframes can handle billions of transactions every day, but as a hardware-based solution, there are significant costs involved to upgrading or upscaling mainframe systems. Offloading certain processes onto the cloud reduces the number of queries going to the mainframe. Lower mainframe loads mean lower costs from a hardware and maintenance perspective.

Upgrading mainframes is costly and generally needs to be done every four to six years. The licensing software for mainframes is also expensive. Storage costs on the cloud are much less and with consumption-based pricing models, enterprises only pay for what they use. With public clouds such as Microsoft Azure, businesses can save around 90% of mainframe hardware upgrade costs.

Upgrade mainframe with cloud computing

Mainframes are built on relatively simple architectures using code that was written decades ago: Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL). This code is widely used in applications running on mainframe computers but it can be recompiled to run in the cloud environment.

In cases where the mainframe is already used for business operations and applications, it is possible to automatically convert mainframe assets to a more modern language, transforming the COBOL source code. This process of refactoring supports the integration of the mainframe and cloud environments by reducing complexities: the code is cleaner and easier for developers to work with.

Another option is to replatform mainframe applications to run on the cloud. This involves minimal changes to the source code and doesn’t require a complete rehaul of the existing architecture. Enterprises need to choose a migration strategy that suits their needs. Whether it is to re-develop, re-engineer, lift and shift, or retain and optimise - there are a number of ways businesses can integrate the mainframe into the cloud environment.

Are mainframes here to stay?

Mainframe computers came on the market in the 1950s and are still very much in use. Almost 70% of the Fortune 100 companies use mainframes. In a recent survey, 74% of respondents said that mainframes have long-term viability.

Looking ahead, mainframes are well-suited for the blockchain model. Excellent processing power of huge data sets means that mainframes are ideal for many business applications of blockchain technology, including supply chain management, healthcare and international finance.

Finding the right partner

Enterprises should look for the right B2B partner that offers automated tools and years of experience in delivering high quality IT solutions. As an enterprise-grade cloud provider, SEACOM Business works with South African enterprises to migrate and integrate mainframe workloads with the cloud using the latest technologies in automation and machine learning.

SEACOM Business has a comprehensive set of products and services that unlock new value for businesses. Working with core and legacy apps, we can modernise and migrate your mainframes to co-exist with a cloud environment. This unlocks new value for businesses looking to optimise their digital transformation.

For many enterprises in healthcare, retail, military, finance and banking, the mainframe is an essential component in their digital ecosystem. It facilitates large-scale business computing, supporting many users and apps at the same time. Mainframes can process billions of transactions every day and offer excellent security for critical data. However, they are expensive to upgrade and maintain.

With cloud migration, businesses don’t need to leave their mainframe behind. It is possible to access the mainframe directly from cloud-based platforms. This gives enterprises the benefit of a highly secure mainframe with the flexibility, performance and cost benefits of cloud computing. For more information or to get a quote for our cloud and hybrid cloud solutions, email us at marketing@seacom.com or leave us a message.

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