Mainframes are ready for the next generation

Big iron is enjoying a new lease of life, as mainframe-as-a-service delivery make its reliability and power easily accessible to all comers. But that still leaves operating costs as a potential area of concern. Rupert Lehner, Head of Central Europe, Products and Enterprise Platform Services EMEIA, Managing Director Germany, looks at how Fujitsu is helping customers contain and manage this aspect of mainframe ownership.

With word getting out that the mainframe is becoming cool again, the typical questions I get are switching from the existential “why use mainframes?” to the more pragmatic “what about operating costs and skills shortages?”

These are good questions that must have solid answers if mainframe computing is to remain relevant to the next generation.

Yes, many organizations depend on mainframes to run mission-critical applications including government, finance and insurance systems. As the dependable hardware that hosts many virtual and distributed applications, mainframes represent the backbone of Hybrid IT.

But if operating costs and people skills aren’t sustainable in the long term, then it won’t be long before that situation changes.

Putting a lid on mainframe operating costs

I’ve written previously about how consumption-based pricing (CBP) reduces the cost of mainframe ownership. Fujitsu is alert to the sensitivity of mainframe operating costs, and that’s one reason why, last year, we launched a modular portfolio of services, methodologies, expertise, and solutions to support different mainframe platforms, called Fujitsu Mainframe Managed Services.

I want to emphasize the word ‘modular’ here, because we are most certainly not looking to impose one-size-fits-all solutions: our approach is to partner with customers to co-create the optimal solution for the maintenance of their mainframe systems, choosing from the most appropriate modules.

In tandem with a bedrock of core services, these modules allow Fujitsu to help customers run enterprise mainframe systems efficiently and sustainably and reduce the ongoing operating costs associated with mainframe software and hardware. In particular, we are focused on optimizing mainframe software, which can account for as much as 60 percent of the total cost of operation.

One of the ways we achieve this is to allow customers to select from a range of application modernization and transformation services. These start with an environment analysis to identify applications in need of modernization, as well as determining which applications are best suited to mainframes, and those that may benefit from re-platforming.

Let’s look at that in a bit more detail. One of the modular options, for example, is our Third Party Mainframe Service DBaaS on z/LINUX, where we can consolidate multiple database servers onto Fujitsu Enterprise Platforms to reduce system management and maintenance overheads while delivering the same service at a significantly lower software cost. Converting non-open source databases to Fujitsu Enterprise PostgreSQL can further reduce costs while maintaining the strength of an enterprise database.

You can already deduce that this is not just about support for Fujitsu BS2000, Global Server and VME – the new portfolio of Mainframe Managed Services also covers third-party mainframe systems.

Yes, this service is also available for customers running IBM z Systems.

As an IBM Business Partner with a proven track record in Mainframe Managed Services, Fujitsu has a portfolio designed to optimize costs, mitigate risks and provide maximum flexibility for customers. We offer Fujitsu z Systems Services for z/OS, z/VSE and z/VM and IBM i Systems Services where Fujitsu has a long-established and strong capability in all aspects of IBM System management, delivered through a global support team of highly skilled technical professionals.

Where are the skills going to come from?

As the baby-boomer generation moves ever deeper into retirement territory, we are facing an industry-wide skills shortage.

There just aren’t enough people with mainframe skills such as COBOL. This is causing headaches for many enterprises, as they ponder how to keep mainframe systems running into the future.

Addressing this risk of a future shortage of qualified technical staff with the know-how and certification to keep mainframes up and running is also something we are addressing with the Mainframe Managed Services portfolio.

The portfolio’s core services that I mentioned earlier offer customers a stable operational service, reducing risk and addressing demographic concerns such as a skills shortage. Fujitsu’s network of Global Delivery Centers (GDCs) guarantees follow-the-sun access to highly skilled support, wherever they are located and whenever support is needed.

Fujitsu has also established an Enterprise Platform Services (EPS) Academy, helping to ensure future expertise and career opportunities for mainframe and data center technologies. This aims to maintain and develop essential skills, passing on expertise to a new generation of experts who will be able to keep mainframe systems up and running long into the future.

Focusing on high-quality skills transfer, the Fujitsu EPS Academy provides comprehensive training modules to support learning processes and experience exchange and to deliver up-to-date expertise of relevance to mainframe and data center technologies, for example, BS2000, VME and z/OS, plus application integration in x86 and Linux system landscapes based on advanced web interfaces.

Fit for the next generation

Anyone who remembers predictions of the “death of paper” as digital scanning seemed to offer the possibility of a “paperless office”, won’t be altogether surprised at the continuing vitality of the mainframe. As new technologies emerge that seem to pose a challenge to what big iron can offer, we repeatedly find that its core benefits – the reliability, security, and power for the high-volume, mission-critical business transactions that underpin digital infrastructures – are sufficiently compelling to ensure that we find new ways to refresh the technology for each generation.

The combination of flexible consumption-based-pricing plus the modular managed services from Fujitsu I have described here, together with strategic initiatives to ensure a flow of appropriately trained people into the future, demonstrate that this pattern is set to continue. That’s great news for anyone running a mainframe. If you have a headache, give us a call – we can solve it today, and keep it from coming back tomorrow.

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