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Business Impact of Modernizing Your IBM Z Platform Versus Replatforming

By Lee Sullivan posted Thu April 08, 2021 03:52 PM


By Jeff Winter, Chief Marketing Officer, Rocket Software

Many CIOs think the only way they can achieve their AI, hybrid cloud, and IoT goals is to switch to x86 systems on-premises or in the cloud. But is that really the right strategy? A new IDC white paper entitled The Quantified Business Benefits of Modernizing IBM Z and IBM i to Spur Innovation shows how businesses that remain on these "legacy" platforms and take advantage of the hardware and software innovations have better business outcomes quantitatively and qualitatively than those that choose to replatform. Based on a customer survey of hundreds of IBM Z users, this research reinforces why staying on your IBM Z platform remains central to your modernization initiatives.

Even though IBM Z powers some of the world’s most important industries, the public is generally unaware of its capabilities. This tends to be the case for many businesses as well. Although mainframe systems have been around for over 50 years, they are nowhere near the same platforms as they were back then. As technology has moved forward, so has IBM Z consistently with new integrations and innovations.

When businesses don’t understand that these systems are capable of modern functionality, and if they haven’t kept their systems updated, replatforming may seem like the obvious approach. "Just How Dead Is the Mainframe?" Such was the question posed by a provocative headline in The New York Times on June 28, 1992. Fast forward 30 years: IBM Z is still alive and kicking. The latest generation — IBM z15 — can run up to 19 billion encrypted transactions per day, close to 220,000 transactions per second. Basing business decisions on unknown factors can be expensive, risky, and result in dissatisfaction from users. Yet, often it’s these misconceptions that drive technology leaders to adopt a rip-and-replace approach to so-called legacy systems, instead of maintaining and updating them.

Modernization Allows for New Functionality

What happens when companies do decide to replace their legacy systems? Do they get to realize the benefits of hybrid cloud, IoT, open-source, and other new technologies that they believe will not integrate with their legacy system? According to the IDC research, businesses that chose to replatform are actually “across the board, less satisfied with the functionalities of the new platform.” By choosing to replatform, businesses gain new functionalities, but often lose -- or must compensate for -- existing ones. Modernizing allows businesses to retain their existing functionality while simultaneously being able to expand systems to adopt new ones.

The net result is that replatformers lose functionality, whereas modernizers experience greater capabilities.


Businesses that rely on IBM Z platform can benefit from a multitude of innovations that support modern technologies and allow legacy systems to integrate seamlessly with their IT infrastructure. The top three destinations for IBM Z replatformers are distributed x86 servers in their datacenter, scale-up x86 instances in their datacenter, and distributed x86 servers at a managed services provider (MSP). Although these systems are new compared to IBM Z, they often still don’t compare well with the quality of service achieved from upgrading an IBM Z platform. Businesses that replatformed report less satisfaction in many modern functionalities—including API, open-source capabilities, DevOps, and agility—than modernizers did. In fact, in the survey, modernizers consistently rated these capabilities on IBM Z to be either "very good” or "excellent".

Modernization Yields Better Business Results

With low overhead and minimal maintenance, IBM Z platforms offer incredible protection from data loss and little risk of outages. They are also known for being reliable and resilient, as they support transactions in major industries and essential infrastructure such as banking, emergency response, and government services. It’s for these reasons that many organizations continue to rely on the IBM Z platform. In the interest of serving users and customers, IBM Z platform continues to come out ahead of the newest x86 platforms. In the areas of security, availability, and disaster recovery, modernizers rated their platforms as “very good,” whereas replatformers rated their systems as “decent.”

Modernization is More Cost-Effective

Most business decisions come down to a simple cost equation. Although many businesses understand that modernization on a legacy system is more affordable in the short term, there is a common misconception that in the long run, replatforning will be more cost-effective. It turns out that even when IBM Z modernizers and replatformers invest the same amount in new hardware, modernizers will pay 1.7 percent less. Since they don’t need to train users on a new system and aren’t risking data loss, they also end up paying less for software, staffing, third-party consulting, and any disruptions.

Although IBM Z is designed to run with low maintenance requirements, according to the new research, businesses reported that they are still able to reduce staffing costs by 4.6 percent. They are also able to reduce annual hardware costs 12.5 percent and software costs by 5.8 percent. A global B2B life science company realized 30% reduction in capex and opex because of their modernization efforts.

The Case for Modernizing on IBM Z

“For every $1 we spent on the platform, it would have been at least $2 to go with a different solution."— An IBM Z customer

In terms of cost efficiency, security, and performance, there is no other system that can deliver as consistently as IBM Z does. This is clearly demonstrated in their findings by IDC and the results are consistent across surveyed IBM Z customers:

  • Overall ratings
    • Modernizers: Very good (4.20)
    • Replatformers: Decent to good (3.95)
  • Notable points
    • Overall customer experience is higher for modernizers
    • Ability to execute on AI, IoT, API development is better on IBM Z
  • Even when including hardware upgrades, modernizing is more cost-effective
    • Lowers both capex and opex costs
    • Correlates to increased revenue

 As illustrated, modernization on IBM Z offers clear advantages in terms of cost, security, and performance. This is precisely why businesses from financial institutions to government agencies -- including 67 of the Fortune 100 -- rely on IBM Z to run their mission-critical workloads.