Bringing Open Source to the Mainframe to Modernize in Place

Dec 17, 2021
IT Leadership Mainframes Open Source

While the power of open source is well established for new technologies, itu2019s yet to be harnessed on mission critical, despite significant opportunities to usher in a renaissance for these longstanding solutions.

Credit: Rocket Software

By Milan Shetti, CEO Rocket Software

Open source software (OSS) has become the de facto standard for millions of IT organizations, and it powers countless facets of our everyday personal and professional lives, from apps on our phones and elements of our cars to innovative AI applications that help us do work faster and smarter. And while it may be associated with the latest-and-greatest in digital transformation, it may surprise many to learn open source is also paving the way for well-established technologies, like the mainframe, to experience a renaissance.

Can the mainframe be modern?

For many, today’s connotation of the mainframe is that of legacy technology and outdated systems. In reality, however, mainframes are critical to many industries and process 30 billion business transactions daily. Moreover, the mainframe continues to be lauded for its extreme security, trusted sources, and high standard—namely high availability and low downtime.

Perhaps the arguably unfair reputation of the mainframe as an outdated technology comes from the fact that the IT professionals who started their careers during a time when the IBM mainframe initially emerged and led the charge on  expanding the use of technology in enterprises, are reaching points where they have the option to stop working full-time (if at all) or to expect significant compensation commensurate with their experience. The next generation of IT professionals—the Gen X’ers entering the prime of their careers now—pursued coursework and then careers focused on emerging and equally compelling technologies such as cloud, JAVA, APIs, and the like.

Those technologies are what today’s younger developers—and the future of the industry—know and want to work on. They understand the value of the mainframe, but also share fair questions when it comes to using it: Why can’t mainframes have a desktop like other computers? Can we find a way into the mainframe that is lightweight and has zero-install for the end-user? And most notably: can the mainframe be so open and modern that it becomes the standard platform for enterprise application development?

The answer to this is, of course, yes. With the help of open source, we can and have opened the mainframe to a new community of developers who will supercharge the next wave of innovation, helping organizations solve real problems on the world’s most powerful platform.

From rip and replace to modernize in place

With talent able to tap into the mainframe more easily thanks to open source, businesses can reap the benefits. And in a post-pandemic world where businesses need to react more quickly, more digitally and in more innovative ways than ever before, there’s limited appetite for the cost, risk, and time to re-platform.

Thanks to open source technologies, businesses can pivot toward modernization plays in place and without the high-risk, unknown rewards of replatforming. In fact, modernization today means leaving existing assets in place and taking full advantage of the years—if not decades—of investment by connecting them into the latest digital development environment.

One example driving the demand for modernization in place is data and the rightful reluctance businesses have to move it from existing systems. Now, with the one-two punch of mainframe and open source, access to that data can be highly distributed but the data can still reside in a tried and proven system of record, staying where it was originally created.

Open today, opportunity tomorrow

With so many technology vendors committed to this cause, new advancements and improvements are coming every day, making the mainframe even easier to use and deploy.

For more than a decade, Rocket Software has been at the heart of this, dedicated to bringing the benefits of open source to underserved platforms. We have ported more than 30 open source tools and languages to z/OS—including Git, Python and more—and have also taken a leading role in the new Zowe framework, helping set the stage for the next 50 years of mainframe innovation. Learn more about how Rocket Software is ensuring the future of mainframe can be open to all here .