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Modernize Mainframe Applications for Hybrid Cloud with IBM and AWS

Mainframe app modernization. Accelerated.

By Steve Steuart, WW Principal Mainframe Modernization GTMS – AWS
By Skyla Loomis, Vice President, IBM zSystems Application Platform – IBM

To meet the needs of a digitally transformed business, customers are modernizing mainframe applications to increase agility, maximize the value of their investments, and innovate faster.

At re:Invent 2021, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced a managed runtime environment to help customers modernize their mainframe workloads.

On the path to modernization, we are also seeing customers choose a hybrid cloud strategy that offers a single integrated operating model, with common agile practices and interoperability of applications between the AWS Cloud and IBM mainframes running on premises.

A hybrid strategy that includes IBM zSystems and AWS can significantly reduce talent gaps, allow for rapid innovation with an agile DevOps approach, make it easier to access applications and data without significant changes, and optimize the costs of running or extending applications. Together, this approach maximizes business agility and return on investment (ROI).

Collaborating with IBM, an AWS Premier Tier Services Partner and Managed Cloud Services Provider (MSP), AWS is extending the available application modernization options to enable customers to select the right modernization path for their business.

To start, we have identified five patterns in support of a hybrid cloud approach.

Pattern #1: Cloud-Native Development for z/OS Applications

Customers can embrace a cloud-native approach to developing and modernizing z/OS applications to increase speed and agility for greater developer productivity.

With this approach, you can easily modify existing COBOL, PL/I, Java, or Assembler programs using your integrated development environment (IDE) of choice while taking advantage of new programming languages including Python, Node.js, and Go that can all run on z/OS.

Seamlessly integrate with standard enterprise-wide CI/CD toolchains, such as Git and Jenkins, and embrace consistent open-source tools that are familiar to developers.

Additionally, you can use a single heterogeneous pipeline orchestrated by AWS CodePipeline that can span AWS services and z/OS environments to orchestrate the development, integration, and deployment of an application across multiple target platforms and environments.

The IBM Z and Cloud Modernization Stack is designed to help you accelerate application modernization. It’s optimized to run on Red Hat OpenShift and can be deployed on AWS. The modernization stack includes both containerized modernization tools and the ability to connect to z/OS environments as an endpoint from OpenShift.

Developers can have self-service access to individual z/OS development and test environments in a containerized sandbox (Wazi Sandbox) that can run on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). The stack provides out-of-the-box automation to enable an IT team to deliver a self-serve experience to developers, making it easy to provision the environments and software they need for development and test, right into their personal sandbox.

This reduces the need for specialized z/OS developer and system programmer skills by automating the provisioning and management of z/OS software with cloud-native techniques.

Containerized application analysis capabilities that can also run on AWS can reduce the risk of application changes by rapidly analyzing code changes to ensure you know all of the dependencies before getting started. Visualization features make it easy to share and understand dependencies.

Pattern #2: Real-Time Information Sharing between z/OS applications and AWS

Providing a personalized experience that can delight customers and differentiate your business is a key objective for most organizations. Increasingly, this requires real-time exchange of information between core business applications running on the mainframe and digital frontend applications running on AWS.

This pattern enables a faster, more efficient, and flexible way to share core business information in real time with cloud applications, and provides support to key personnel such as business analysts and application developers. All of this is enabled without disruption to core business applications and associated service-level agreements (SLAs).

The objective is to first curate necessary information as opposed to moving all of the raw data originating from the many core applications and related data sources. Then, mainframe-optimized technologies are used to communicate and store that curated/aggregated information in memory.

You can surface that information through various standards-based interfaces, including through event-based mechanisms such as Kafka or open standard-based APIs.

The design characteristics of this pattern include efficient integration with core systems applications such as those that are built on CICS and IMS; an optimized method to communicate that curated information; and an in-memory, intra-day cache on z/OS that is built for fast, easy access for handling inquiry (read-only) requests from cloud-based applications on AWS.

Since this pattern is focused on real-time information, the recommended approach is fundamentally hybrid—having an optimized cache implementation on z/OS co-residing with critical core systems and enabling the information to flow to numerous cloud applications on AWS. This hybrid pattern delivers optimized performance, minimal impact to the core applications and standards-based interaction, and is offered as a solution called the IBM Z Digital Integration Hub.

Customers can also choose to flow the events from the z/OS intra-day caches to an enterprise-wide architecture for event processing, API management, or mediation on AWS.

Kafka topics can be configured to be updated after any information in the caches change. Those topics can be used by AWS software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions that derive significant value from more real-time characteristics, as well as shorter time to value of cloud-native applications. 

By leveraging IBM Z Digital Integration Hub, AWS cloud-native application services can access real-time intelligible/consumable data and events through modern methods (JDBC, ODBC, Kafka, REST) with little to no impact on core application environments.

Pattern #3: Mainframe Augmentation with New Channels

This pattern extends the z/OS reach to the AWS Cloud by making z/OS business functions and data available for new use cases via AWS services. For example, some customers choose to build new web frontends for their mobile users, while others choose to set up voice interfaces on AWS for their core business functions.

These new services could access mainframe applications and data with REST APIs that adhere to the Open API standards, and can be built in minutes with the IBM no-code API solution, z/OS Connect. This easily provides secure access to mainframe applications and data through industry-standard APIs using the Open API specification.

You can safely scale your business-critical APIs and leverage the strengths of the IBM zSystems platform while providing seamless integration with enterprise API management solutions like Amazon API Gateway.

Some customers have a need for additional or specifically geographically located data center capacity with AWS to augment core processing capability or AWS global infrastructure with data centers to provide processing of Sensitive Personal Information (SPI) within specific jurisdictions.

For new channels, in-country processing and hybrid cloud deployments to complement CICS on z/OS, IBM offers CICS TX. Customers can leverage this solution to deploy non-performance critical COBOL/CICS applications on AWS, to interoperate with the core CICS Transaction Server for z/OS (CICS TS), and to share logic seamlessly across z/OS and AWS.

Pattern #4: Hybrid Storage with AWS Cloud Storage

z/OS clients are integrating cloud object storage into their classic disk and tape environments to create a hybrid storage architecture. This hybrid architecture enables clients to leverage the strengths of on-premises disk and tape storage while adding the intrinsic strengths of cloud solutions like AWS storage for backup, archive, and unstructured data.

z/OS offers many solutions that transparently leverage AWS storage as another tier of storage.

A simple way to create a hybrid storage environment is with the IBM TS7700 cloud tier. This feature enables data to be first written to the TS7700 virtual tape cache, which ensures SLAs are maintained and there are no application changes needed. The TS7700 can then transparently migrate colder virtual tape data to AWS storage for low-cost, cyber-resilient residency.

Additionally, IBM DS8900 provides transparent cloud tiering (TCT), which enables automated, policy-based data backup and archive directly from DS8900 disk directly to both the TS7700 object store and AWS storage, with none of the data passing through z/OS. This solution enables a significant CPU reduction for data management.

DFSMShsm and DFSMSdss leverage this capability for unique cyber resiliency and lifecycle management cloud storage solutions for z/OS clients.

For unstructured data, DFSMSdfp OAM utilizes AWS storage as another tier of storage for data such as PDFs, or audio and video files served on z/OS. OAM can write data directly to AWS storage and transition data from disk and tape to cloud storage.

For customers who desire to utilize AWS storage directly for their tape data, IBM Cloud Tape Connector provides full tape virtualization through software-only emulation that utilizes host-based compression and encryption.

Pattern #5: Enterprise Automation Across z/OS and AWS

Automation is an essential part of enabling any cloud and hybrid cloud experience.

Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform can run on AWS and is a foundation for building and operating automation across an organization and across IT environments. The platform includes all of the tools needed to implement enterprise-wide automation across AWS and IBM zSystems.

The Red Hat Ansible Certified Content for IBM Z includes collections that accelerate automation of z/OS, z/OS middleware products, and other IBM zSystems resources. This enables automation across hybrid applications and environments spanning AWS and zSystems to be automated with a consistent enterprise approach.


To help customers increase agility, maximize the value of their investments, and innovate faster, IBM and AWS are collaborating to extend the available application modernization options to enable customers to select the right modernization path for their business. To learn more:

IBM – AWS Partner Spotlight

IBM is an AWS Premier Tier Partner offering consulting services and software solutions. IBM has assembled an ecosystem of highly experienced professionals dedicated to deploying customer solutions on AWS. IBM helps customers modernize existing workflows with AWS Cloud, develop cloud-native apps, and optimize their existing AWS Cloud environment. IBM’s expertise in security, enterprise scalability, and open innovation with Red Hat OpenShift helps customers modernize quickly and seamlessly with the AWS Cloud. Coupled with deep consulting competencies, intelligent workflows, artificial intelligence (AI), and automation, it is the ideal partner for customers’ cloud transformation journey .

Contact IBM | Partner Overview


Tue May 10, 2022 12:47 PM

Well written! Thanks for sharing and providing the sample patterns that should resonate with customers today.