90% of enterprises modernised mainframe workloads in response to pandemic

Duncan is an award-winning editor with more than 20 years experience in journalism. Having launched his tech journalism career as editor of Arabian Computer News in Dubai, he has since edited an array of tech and digital marketing publications, including Computer Business Review, TechWeekEurope, Figaro Digital, Digit and Marketing Gazette.

More than two years since the pandemic demonstrated just how fragile legacy systems can be, findings from Advanced’s third annualMainframe Modernization Business Barometer Report show that, for the first time ever, digitalisation is the driving force across the enterprise.

Organisations aren’t just embracing cloud hyperscalers as infrastructure providers – they’re inviting them into the critical operations of their businesses with open arms. 

In fact, according to the survey of hundreds of enterprise IT leaders spanning the globe, 41% have modernised mainframe workloads within the past year, 90% have done so within the past three years, and 85% are in the process of planning a modernisation project or recently completed one. This is a huge departure from the 11% that undertook modernisation initiatives pre-pandemic. 

For those modernising, 41% ranked security – including the downstream impact to regulatory compliance, data, and infrastructure management – as the top element taken into account when prioritising their mainframe modernisation strategies (a factor not even on their radar in 2020 and 2021 analyses). The shift to the cloud (29%), high/rising software licensing costs (28%), integration issues (26%), organisational technology consolidation (25%), hardware dependency (23%), and lack of scalability (19%) followed as top modernisation drivers. 

“Considering that nearly half of our respondents named transformation and innovation enablement as their top strategic initiative of 2022, and three-quarters are still concerned with having access to the right IT talent to maintain and manage their mainframes, it’s clear that being tethered to these legacy systems is seen as a true barrier to digitalisation for the enterprise today,” said Tim Jones, MD of application modernisation for Advanced. “At $65 million also spent annually on them, 22% of which is allocated to maintenance alone, the majority of enterprise leaders are now vigorously embracing change as a certainty and increasingly viewing their outdated, expensive mainframes as agents of risk that stand in the way of agility and success.” 

Additional findings from the report include: 

  • A look at today’s mainframe: On average, mainframe-based applications consist of 3.6 million lines of code. Although many use multiple legacy languages, COBOL is reported as the most widely utilised (42%), followed by High Level Assembler (37%), ADSO (32%), and Software AG’s Natural (29%).
  • The destinations for modernisation projects: 68% of those migrating their mainframe workloads are targeting public cloud environments such as AWS, Google Cloud, Oracle Cloud, or Microsoft Azure, while 54% say they’re considering private cloud environments. Security, cost, and track record of success were listed as the deciding factors for preferred cloud providers. 
  • Modernisation approaches taken: 33% chose refactoring, 24% chose rehost/replatform, 22% are replacing mainframe functionality with commercial off-the-shelf software (COTS), and 13% prefer a rewrite/re-engineer approach. 
  • The benefits organisations have reaped: A sample of benefits include cost reduction, talent pool expansion, and technology consolidation; 89% also reported that mainframe modernisation resulted in a positive impact on sustainability goals for their organisations (vs. a 17%+ increase in 2021). 

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