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IBM Z as a service brings mainframes closer to hybrid clouds

Responding to demands to modernize mainframe environments, IBM delivered its Z as a service and a new software stack that brings mainframes and hybrid clouds closer together.

IBM continued its long journey of modernizing the mainframe, this time with plans that allow developers to build and test mainframe applications as a service in the public cloud for the first time.

Complementing the new IBM Z as-a-service in IBM Cloud offering, the IBM Z and Cloud Modernization Stack is now available to accelerate delivery of application modernization projects.

The Modernization Stack lets developers take a standardized approach to IT automation across a variety of use cases, as well as eliminate the need to hire more expensive personnel with specialized skills handling proprietary mainframe software.

The Modernization Stack is the first product to take advantage of the IBM Z and Cloud Modernization Center introduced in December to help users deliver digital transformation projects faster, particularly those involving open source.

The new offerings show IBM's belief there is no one-size-fits-all approach to modernizing mainframe-based environments, said Tarun Chopra, vice president of IBM Z Hybrid Cloud. Chopra pointed out that the offerings leverage equally the capabilities of IBM z/OS and the IBM Cloud.

"Developers now have access to more technical advancements, including security and the resiliency of each platform," Chopra said. "And with hybrid clouds, they can keep their workloads wherever they need to be, in the cloud, on-premises and at the edge."

The Z as-a-service offering gives users access to public cloud environments on a pay-as-you-go basis, allowing them to use varying amounts of resources. It also allows for self-provisioning of a z/OS Virtual Server Instance that resides on the IBM Z platform in a logically isolated and secured space on the IBM Cloud, IBM said.

The new service cuts down the time it takes developers to gain access to the z/OS development and testing environments to a few minutes instead of days, according to IBM. Also, development on the IBM Cloud is up to 15 times faster than similarly configured x86-based development and testing competitors, as measured by internal IBM benchmarks.

The Cloud Modernization Stack streamlines the way developers access applications and data by creating secure APIs. It also allows them to more easily access enterprise-class DevOps environments where cloud-native development is taking place using industry-standard tools, according to IBM.

One of those industry-standard tools, Kubernetes, is supported in the Cloud Modernization Stack. One analyst sees this as a critical ingredient in helping users develop applications capable of working across multiple hybrid clouds.

IBM is telling users now if you want to modernize, then the best way to do it is around open source with Kubernetes, which has become a standard IT technology.
Frank DzubeckPresident, Communications Network Architects

"The piece IBM has been missing in tying clouds and mainframes together was their approach to DevOps," said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects. "IBM is telling users now if you want to modernize, then the best way to do it is around open source with Kubernetes, which has become a standard IT technology."

Another analyst sees the new offerings as a reaction to mainframe users who want to modernize mission-critical applications but are debating whether to do it on the mainframe or move their apps to another easier-to-use platform.

"IBM is under a lot of pressure from users who want to modernize but can't because [IBM's mainframe] tools are not modern," said Judith Hurwitz, an independent software strategy consultant. "IBM makes a lot of money from the Z platform, so this gives users an option to stay on the Z platform because these tools let them carry on with open source projects."

What could prove most appealing about the offering is it gives users the ability to test and develop remotely on IBM's systems but emulates the look and feel of working on their own internal systems. This frees up users' own mainframe cycles and other resources, Hurwitz said.

As Editor At Large with TechTarget's News Group, Ed Scannell is responsible for writing and reporting breaking news, news analysis and features focused on technology issues and trends affecting corporate IT professionals.

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