Mainframes have been a punching bag for modernization champions for a decade, and for good reasons. Skill availability is constantly falling, making it risky for enterprises to run the systems. Costs are unreasonably high when compared to modern storage and processors. The systems are often unable to move at the speed of business, even as Fintech and other such startups are fiercely nimble. It is also not easy to decode mainframe assets that were built and nurtured over decades, carrying some of the complex algorithms written at times when having 16-byte processing was a luxury.
A year ago, IBM launched a “Tailor-fit pricing” model for Z, claiming it was 30% less expensive than an x86-based cloud provider. Unfortunately, the agility and skill-availability challenges are too significant to be overcome by the hypothetical cost savings.
To address this, IBM WAZI for RedHat CodeReady workspaces are trying to change the tide. WAZI is primarily zD&T under the hood, which gives full-service compatibility for mainframe applications built on Z (COBOL, PL/I, Assembler etc.). It also provides the VS Code or Eclipse IDE, which is popular with new-age developers, and is operable in a multi-cloud environment. More importantly, mainframe applications can be truly integrated with the DevSecOps pipeline of the larger enterprise, improving the release cycles to be at par with the velocity of the firm.
A WAZI development environment (outside actual mainframes) combined with crowdsourcing platforms like TopCoder opens significant opportunities to engage a larger skill base, whether full- or part-time, that’s still happy programming on mainframes. For example, Wipro’s Hybrid-Private-Crowd model can hasten this adoption in a controlled and secured environment, enabling companies to tap into a significantly larger global skill pool.
Finally, by addressing the agility and skill-availability challenges, IBM’s fight for mainframes get a shot in the arm. To really leverage this, however, enterprises may have to upgrade their Z infrastructure to a compatible version.
“Who says Elephants can’t dance?” While the jury is still out about whether WAZI can be a game changer for IBM mainframe, it appears to be a good move.