App modernization, mainframe, microservices: IBM event recap

At the recent IBM Infrastructure Analyst Event, IBM announced advances in IBM zSystems for AI, app architecture and other areas to help businesses achieve their goals.

I was invited to the IBM Infrastructure Analyst Event on March 14-16 and joined by a packed room of analysts just as eager to learn what all the hype Ross Mauri's team was going to tell us. They did not disappoint!

Leading off with growth and strategy

When I am talking to organizations, the conversation quickly gets to how they can modernize their environments to adapt to growing business needs. This comes in the form of small and large organizations alike, but when we think of the businesses that we all run our daily activities on, many people are surprised to learn that banking, financials, travel and the like continue to run on mainframe.

But mainframe is old and outdated, right? Not quite. It is established for sure, but IBM is proud to announce advances in the new IBM zSystems, including the introduction of z16. With the increasing pressures on organizations to reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint, there has been a rebirth of Linux workloads within a z/OS address space. According to IBM, many clients run full stack z/OS with Linux. And the Linux boom continues. In fact, on these IBM Z systems, net new customer acquisitions are from Linux only, and very few new customers are running z/OS.

But sustainability is not the only reason. There is an increased momentum in the era of hybrid cloud, and another factor is security. The IBM z16 is the first quantum safe system where IBM Quantum Safe prepares large, complex enterprises and networks for the shift to quantum-safe cryptography by identifying and mapping the highest priority data, applications and infrastructure. And IBM states 66% of all Z servers -- as well as 85% MIPS capacity -- are on z14 or newer (i.e., less than 5 years old) and can take advantage of these new advancements.

While the focus at the event was on database consolidation expanding to incorporate open-source projects, IBM also demonstrated a use case where organizations are bringing large, distributed private cloud back on IBM Z platforms. This was thought to be largely due to sustainability -- such as leveraging LinuxONE Emperor 4 sustainable infrastructure for energy, scalability and security -- but performance, reliability and security were found to be easier to manage for these types of projects as well.

The cloud modernization stack

Our TechTarget Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) research indicates modernization of cloud apps is not slowing. Some of the key areas our research highlights are innovation, optimization, modernization and sustainability. IBM touts the same in their messaging. Business resiliency and unlocking IT to increase the speed of innovation is part of their key messaging.

One highlight that also aligns to our research is accelerating business goals by leveraging AI insights. The new systems from IBM zSystems & LinuxONE echoed this in the latest messaging for the platform.

The application architecture journey will vary based on organizational needs. I appreciated IBM's approach on understanding that one size does not fit all. Throughout the entire event, the message was clear that there are different application needs when it comes to modernization strategies. The focus was to apply the right configuration for the application needs that include tightly coupled (monolithic), thin core (encapsulated) and loosely coupled (microservices).

ESG's research reported in "Distributed Cloud Services: Cloud-native Applications" found that 73% of respondent’s organizations are currently developing cloud-native applications on microservices architecture. And IBM addresses this market as well as the monolithic and encapsulated applications as well. This is important because very few organizations are running a single architecture across all their applications.

The DevOps ecosystem

IBM continued the modernization journey and momentum in several focus areas during the event. Application modernization was a key takeaway, but the way IBM proposes also aligned to my latest research. For example, we recognize that automation is a key area of growth for many organizations. This is for a number of reasons, such as eliminating tedious tasks and addressing skill gap challenges.

Project Wisdom is priority for both IBM and Red Hat. But what it does is very promising. By bringing AI to Ansible, it aims to address growing IT automation skills gaps as well as help experienced Ansible creators. AI will reshape IT automation, and AI introduced into the Ansible ecosystem in an ethical, sustainable way promises to accelerate productivity of people, process and the tech stack.

So how will this be achieved? Delivering results using Ansible playbooks is a current focus. The goal is to provide content generation, discovery, optimization and explanation. But to be clear, Project Wisdom is not like ChatGPT. Rather, it is very focused on results around Ansible foundational models. Project Wisdom is built with the community first. Built on transparency, collaboration and choice, contributors can opt in or out, based on their approach. Also, this approach can expand on event-driven Ansible as well.

But when it comes to DevOps Everywhere, the customer presentation at the IBM Analyst Event from Sun Life highlighted from a DevOps view how to leverage enterprise standardization, modern development practices, developer autonomy and automated testing for people and process. This includes the management and operation of hybrid applications, data integration, AIOps and observability across the modern environment. IBM also explained how independent software vendors and open source as part of the LinuxONE partner network are important to the growth strategy as well as a potential accelerator for organizations looking to modernize.

Summarizing the event: Paul's POV

Organizations are tasked to do more with less every day. What IBM promises to deliver is a way to accelerate business modernization objectives by providing not only the appropriate technology stack, but also ways to reduce or possibly eliminate the skill gap issues and automate processes that may historically slow down business goals.

I will say that IBM changed my impressions of what a legacy or heritage system can do for today's modern business needs. When thinking about business goals -- including sustainability, optimization and modern approaches -- I suggest checking out how IBM can help your organization. It is not the IBM of yesterday; there is so much more to consider when looking at the "new" IBM for today. (And I did not even mention how cool the Quantum computer systems were to see live, but that's for another article.)

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