Embrace Mainframe Technology for Better Insights
This is the second in a series of posts that will discuss data integration from the mainframe using Informatica, which connects the mainframe data with the data from the new applications that are built in the cloud.
In my last blog, I discussed how Informatica works with organizations to help integrate data from many structured and unstructured sources hosted on their IBM® z/Series™ and i/Series™ platforms (mainframes). As a reminder, Informatica provides access to the most common data sources held on IBM platforms. This includes Adabas, Db2®, Datacom, IDMS, IMS, Sequential and VSAM through its PowerExchange connectors.
Over the past fifty years, the mainframe has evolved rapidly. Today, mainframes integrate with modern technologies. This allows you to do things like run COBOL apps on z/OS alongside Docker containers on Linux (using z/VM) on the same physical machine. The term “legacy” for organizations that use the mainframe is far from “legacy.” In fact, mainframes form a critical part of their enterprise data processing infrastructure. Investment on the mainframe is progressive. It also aligns to the business demands to keep them competitive. Today I will outline the types of organizations that use our data integration solutions for data hosted on the IBM platforms and the value it provides. I’ll also touch on some developments where people are (re)focusing their careers on mainframe.
Mainframes: A Continued Keystone to Modern Business
Most people don’t realize that if you have an account covering insurance, utilities or vehicle licensing, you likely connect with information residing on a mainframe. Mainframes exist as the cornerstone of many organizations. Many don’t realize the amount of data that’s been accumulated on mainframes over the last fifty years.
The mainframe owes much of its longevity to its inherent reliability, stability, scalability, security. But most importantly — its ability to evolve. From the original IBM platforms to the recently announced IBM z16™ architecture, no other computer architecture can claim as much growth.
While other forms of computing are used in various capacities, the mainframe (typically IBM Z®) occupies an important place in today's e-business environment. In banking, healthcare, insurance, government, and many other public and private enterprises, the mainframe computer is a keystone of modern business. Because of this, organizations continue to expand their capacities on it. This also means it is critical in all data Integration initiatives. Below are some key benefits of mainframe technology, and the role Informatica has played in its success.
Busting Mainframe Myths and the Impact of PowerExchange
1. Mainframes Are Old-School (Not!)
The myth is that mainframe technology is an old, diverse collection of hardware stored in the back of the data centre. Couple that with its out-of-date programming languages (COBOL, PL/1, etc.), and you can see how it is difficult to get young developers interested in working with mainframes. It does not seem to matter that languages such as Java & C (C++) are also available for use. Organizations are no longer migrating away from it. They are expanding their capacities on it.
Case in point: At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a U.S. New Jersey Governor asked for volunteers proficient in COBOL to help handle the relief programs. (Many of them still ran on mainframes). There were none! This caused delays in responding to challenges during a difficult time.
During the pandemic, Informatica helped overcome many of the challenges of connecting to complex data sources. They worked with many data integration initiatives with government and healthcare agencies. Informatica helped discover, collect, cleanse, govern and catalog their data. And it was done with easy-to-use and codeless graphical user interfaces (GUIs), even if the data resided on the mainframe. Informatica has helped feed relevant data to modern cloud-based systems. This helps regulated data collection, storage, governance and analytics…even during a worldwide pandemic.
2. Mainframes Are Not Used Much (False!)
The mainframe is still used by many industries to host business-critical applications. This includes payroll, order processing, financial transaction processes, and production and inventory control. In fact, 80% of the world’s corporate data resides or originates from IBM mainframes! To put it in perspective, IBM mainframes (“z Platform”) are used by:
- 95% of U.S. Fortune 500 companies
- 71% of global Fortune 500 companies
- 25 of the top world banks
- 23 of the top 25 U.S retailers
- 9 out of 10 of the world’s largest insurance companies
To help support mainframe architectures, global educational institutions are teaming up with businesses to provide mainframe-based courses to (re)educate students. IBM also announced a new IBM Z Apprenticeship program to address the skills deficit. The program provides a proven recruitment process targeted at candidates who choose a non-traditional path to develop the technical and soft skills required in certain positions. The program awards students with an industry-recognized associate degree. It also helps them gain relevant work experience.
Informatica, through its PowerExchange Mainframe collection of connectivity products, and Cloud Mass Ingestion, helps customers connect to common datastores on the IBM z Platform, using no-code GUIs. This helps Informatica customers to ingest data from the mainframe, with both batch and change data capture (CDC) capabilities supported, to its Intelligent Data Management Cloud (IDMC). This allows you to integrate valuable data assets of the mainframe with many of the cloud ecosystems (Microsoft Azure, AWS, Google Cloud, etc.). This helps reduce cost and enable more data processing options.
3. Mainframes Don’t Provide Value (Not true!)
The purpose of business intelligence (BI) is to find behavioral patterns and infer actions that can benefit the business. Yet many enterprises have been missing a key component: mainframe data. Without it, BI and modern analytics will not live up to their potential.
Plus, most organizations would seize the opportunity to use mainframe data more strategically and monetize its value.
Informatica’s data integration products integrate on-premises data from mainframes, relational databases, or data warehouse appliances to cloud data lake or data warehouse technologies. This enables data to be fit for processing downstream usage.
Informatica is also enabling these same capabilities for its cloud services. Data can be extracted from the mainframe and loaded to a cloud target where it can be transformed into any standard format, combined with other data and analyzed as often as needed. Informatica PowerExchange Mainframe connectivity products and services can also provide low-latency, delta only, near real-time exchange of data for most mainframe data stores. Most of this activity can also be run near autonomously since processing also accommodates schema drift. This eliminates lag time between data collection and analysis.
Regardless of the industry, liberating mainframe data will help organizations to monetize it. This can lead to new business applications, better services and more refined operations. Mainframe technology isn’t going away. Businesses must do more to incorporate and benefit from it.
The Mainframe and the Cloud: The Future of Hybrid Business Intelligence
The key to success is integrating and transforming mainframe data to a modern, standard format in the cloud. This will make it accessible to cloud applications. Informatica can help as an independent and agnostic provider of all things data.
We understand retrieving data hidden in mainframes can be a challenge. Having full, transparent integration of mainframe data will give you a competitive advantage. It will also award you with more success.
This evolution in mainframe data management and data integration will change how BI changes over the next decade. User experience and product offerings will become more personalized. Companies will customize their offerings according to historical data liberated from the mainframe. This will improve their business analytics and give a competitive edge. Those who follow this path will excel.