For many enterprises, the venerable mainframe is home to decades’ worth of data about the company’s customers, processes and operations. And it goes without saying that the business would like access to that mainframe data — to report on it, to analyze it with big data analysis tools, or to use it as the basis of new machine learning and artificial intelligence initiatives.
At Google Cloud, we are eager to work with organizations to help them transform their mainframe assets for the cloud era. Of course, we can help them modernize their mainframe applications by migrating them to the cloud. At the same time, working with partners and customers, we’ve developed another, more lightweight approach that can help them start to leverage the cloud for their mainframe assets much more quickly than performing a full-fledged migration. We call this approach data-first digitization.
In this rapidly evolving digital ecosystem, it’s imperative to understand the difference between ‘modernization’ and ‘digitization.’ With modernization you start with the current state and look forward, and rely on mainframe application migration approaches such as rehosting (emulation), refactoring (automated code transformation), reengineering — or simply replacing a custom application with a commercial package. With digitization, you start with the future state that you want to achieve, and work back to what is required to get there.
This data-first digitization approach includes a mainframe data-first integration framework comprising in-house and partner products and tools to migrate heterogeneous data sources from the mainframe to Google Cloud Storage. Once mainframe data has been copied to Cloud Storage, it can then be integrated and leveraged by Google Cloud tools such as BigQuery, AI and machine learning prodcuts and Smart and Stream analytics platforms. The integration framework covers both bulk batch data transfers and real-time data replication (change data capture).
Data-first digitization is based on the tenet that ‘applications are transient, data is permanent.’ By bringing data first to Google Cloud instead of traditional ways of modernizing applications (for example, with Gartner’s 7 options to Modernize), this allows organizations to leapfrog to new business models, use cases and innovative ways to serve end customers. For example:
Making decisions with smart and stream analytics platforms and AI/ML engines. These tools need data to make decisions. Google is a pioneer in extracting information and value from the raw structured and unstructured data, and this approach opens up mainframe data for use by BigQuery and AI/ML models.
Building new reporting applications. With access to mainframe data, you can use Google cloud products like Looker and Appsheet to build net-new reporting applications, expediting the process of retiring mainframe reporting applications, and accelerating your overall transformation.
In our experience, taking a data-first digitization approach to your mainframe offers a number of benefits:
Faster time-to-business: Because data-first modernization is built on existing products, the implementation cycle is much shorter.
Less capital investment: You spend your time integrating products, not developing applications.
Minimized risk: Data-first integrates with existing, proven and reliable Google Cloud products.
Faster overall mainframe transformation: When you shift your modernization center of gravity from the application to the data, you look at mainframe applications from a business perspective instead of just “keeping the lights on.” As a result, only the most business-critical applications are modernized and many support applications can be decommissioned, accelerating your transformation journey.
Taking a data-first approach to digitization is still relatively new, but we’re heartened by customers’ early successes. Watch this space for additional insights, reference architectures and technical white papers around data-first. And if you think this approach may be right for you, reach out to [email protected].
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