How mobile-to-mainframe apps help you get more from your mainframe


Mainframes are here to stay and are more relevant than ever before in the application economy – so it’s time your business thought about “reframing the mainframe”.

LittleBlogAuthorGraphic  David Hodgson, October 19, 2015

Too often in a haste to rush towards the future, we easily eschew what we did in the past. But as companies race towards an increasingly connected world where customers are more demanding than ever, there’s a machine in the background, underpinning the business and driving some of the most important apps we use every day on our smartphones. That’s right, folks it’s the mainframe.

Mainframes are here to stay — after all, millions of lines of COBOL code continue to run the most important business applications in the world. That’s why we need to reframe the way we think about the mainframe.

In fact these days, mainframes are expected to do far more — from providing easy data access for big data projects to supporting cloud and mobility. The specialized skill sets required by the mainframe team are becoming even scarcer and most IT departments are under pressure to keep costs down.

That’s where reframing the mainframe comes in. Recognizing that success in the application economy will require investment in the mainframe and that the investment will directly grow your business. The rise of mobile-to-mainframe applications is a key driver here.

The mainframe at play in the application economy

In my first blog post in this series, I talked about the curse and blessing of connectedness for the mainframe in the application economy. It’s this same connectedness that is empowering customers like never before.

And in my second blog post, I talked about how the customer is always right — so it’s incumbent on mainframers to create flexibility for the mainframe platform of the future. The interplay between cloud and the mainframe has presented new opportunities, including Linux on z Systems.

The three largest banks in the U.S. already have 50 million customers using mobile banking — and that adoption rate is growing at a rate of 15 percent annually. Even checking your bank balance on a mobile phone requires hits back onto the critical transaction-processing component of the data center.

To connect mobile-to-mainframe apps, developers need processes and tools that span the divide. This helps to speed up time to market and improves quality with software change management.

Past legacy equals future innovation

Moving forward, the most successful organizations will evolve from supporting legacy business processes to driving innovation.

How will they do this? They’ll develop applications exploiting mobile-to-mainframe architectures that are managed as a whole, not within silos, allowing greater visibility into operations and performance.

This empowers IT staff to perform tasks and access relevant information to accelerate service delivery. Workloads can be more easily orchestrated to run on the best-suited server — the cloud, distributed or mainframe — and data is transformed into insights to drive opportunities.

Learning to become Agile

And it’s already happening. The proportion of professionals with four or more years of Agile adoption at their firms has increased significantly, according to analysts. Many teams are already leveraging core Agile practices: 20 percent are using Agile from ideation to deployment (including DevOps), while 51 percent are using Agile in the upstream.

“Behavioral change is the biggest barrier to adoption; properly skilled business product owners are also a big impediment for Agile adoption success,” according to analysts. “Organizations are finally realizing that the lack of cross-functional teams is one of the top impediments for successful Agile adoption.”

Managing mainframe costs as a strategic asset

What we often hear from customers is that it’s hard to justify the cost of their mainframe platform. Mainframes, however, can be managed as a strategic asset that creates value — if you create mainframe platform flexibility for the future.

According to analysts, the top three benefits of becoming Agile are better business and IT alignment, faster delivery of solutions and more opportunities for midcourse corrections.

The right testing tools can help you deliver higher-quality applications faster, while keeping costs under control. Integrated Application Quality and Testing Tools from CA Technologies, for example, are designed to help you test, diagnose and fix problems in mainframe applications quickly — before issues affect application performance.

By reframing the mainframe and connecting mobile-to-mainframe applications, you can reduce costs, improve efficiency and reallocate resources to more strategic business initiatives. You’ll maximize what you already have, while integrating new service offerings — turning your mainframe platform into a competitive differentiator with potential new revenue streams.



Power to the app in the enterprise


While it’s still early days for enterprise apps in the digital workplace, here’s how you can begin to re-invent your business and connect with your employees through the power of apps.

LittleBlogAuthorGraphic  David Hodgson, December 16, 2014

As each new generation enters the workforce they bring preferences that eventually become dominant. Canadian business executive, consultant, speaker and author of “Grown Up Digital,” Don Tapscott, and other authors, have focused us on the huge changes these generational shifts will bring in the application economy.

We have already witnessed changes driven by behavior patterns such as the ubiquitous use of Google as the means to find solutions to work problems, the use of social media at work and the adoption of social media for internal communications. But while we are all used to apps that we use as consumers, and while the emerging workforce depends on apps in their personal life, we are still in the infancy of enterprise apps for the digital workplace.

In my last blog I talked about the driving role that applications are playing in our current economy and the importance of data as a differentiator. Winners in the application economy will be differentiated by business models that leverage apps and data to connect with their customers in the most effective way for both parties.

But this isn’t happening only for how businesses connect with their customers. Successful companies will also re-invent themselves from the inside out, affecting the way they connect with their employees.

Mobile devices will be the platform for enterprise applications

IT departments have generally been resistant to the entrance of mobile devices into the work force. Of course the resistance is futile, and the current directions of most BYOD policies are counter-productive; you can’t impose centralized control onto an inherently distributed compute capability.

The conflicts and compromises we see are just the teething pains of a new era dawning. We might not see the true potential of the technology to transform until the last of the old guard receive their retirement packages, but the changes are as inevitable as the other mechanistic forces in the universe. More likely the companies that can’t embrace the full potential will be displaced by the more progressive companies that can; we call that evolution!

What we have seen emerge in most companies trying to evolve using new technologies are mainly marketing and sales tools. Often these are nothing more than pro-forma apps that link to content on a company’s intranet. Even when they are native apps they deal with rather trivial problems like meeting or conference agendas. Only the leading edge companies have apps that get to the heart of the business tasks that drive their business.

Two industry leaders driving change

The dawn of transformative, app-based tools took a leap forward recently when IBM and Apple announced a partnership to bring a bunch of “made-for-business” apps as iOS solutions for the workplace. This is a powerful incarnation of IBM’s “MobileFirst” strategy and connects to their cloud and analytics capabilities. The solutions announced cover many areas and industry verticals, but in every case these are application tools for the employees to deliver better service to the customers, not apps for the consumers themselves.

Data is the fuel that powers most practically useful apps. While Apple can bring the device and the experience the workforce will enjoy, the data and the disruptive differentiation is the edge that IBM brings. With the power of cloud-based data collection and analytics, they can deliver intelligent insights that augment and change the way human teams work together. Maybe they will even deliver their powerful Watson-based capabilities this way.

Data and the danger of dystopia

As mobile apps become pervasive as a part of business processes, the use of the apps themselves will provide more data, and empower employers to understand more about their employees as well as their customers. Well understood in science-fiction dystopias, this will be another social change for us to navigate. The difficulty will be the odd mixing of the two worlds, private and work, especially if the devices used in both are common.

What is you work experience with mobile devices and the next generation of business applications? How do you feel about the potential loss of privacy and further blurring of work and home life? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment below or connect with me on Twitter as @dmgh7