April 8, 2021

Mainframe Digital Transformation: Revisiting an Overlooked Opportunity

Digital Transformation

Can the mainframe and digital transformation coexist?

Perform a quick Google search for mainframe technology and you’ll find some of the following sentiments.

  • Mainframe is dead, dying, or no longer relevant.
  • As cloud computing, multicloud, mobile, digital transformation, and advanced enterprise technologies take hold, the mainframe is becoming irrelevant.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Mainframe computing currently accounts for 90% of all credit card transactions and handles 68% of the world’s production IT workloads. The use of mainframe technologies remains prevalent. At the same time, it is critical to update these legacy tools to work well among the evolving enterprise digital toolkit.

Enter mainframe digital transformation.

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What Is Mainframe Digital Transformation?

Mainframe digital transformation involves connecting your mainframe technology to DevOps processes, APIs, cloud computing resources, and emerging innovative technologies. A connected mainframe approach to digital transformation provides cost savings, unrivaled security, and advanced processing speed. All of which are difficult to replicate without mainframe technology.  

Mainframes are frequently overlooked. Especially in a world dominated by emerging concepts like virtual reality and composable enterprise. But there are many benefits to mainframes in the digital transformation journey. These include cost savings, security, as well as speed and agility.

Benefits of Mainframe Digital Transformation

Cost Savings 

According to recent IDC research:

Operating costs for mainframe technologies were 35% lower after the mainframe was integrated with modern digital transformation technologies.

That’s because when an organization integrates their modern and legacy technologies:

  • Silos are broken down.
  • Greater efficiency can be achieved.

In many enterprises, digital transformation is ushered in by investing in external technologies. At the same time, many are ignoring the mainframe. When enterprises combine the benefits of their legacy IT footprint with their emerging digital transformation toolset, the cost of both investments are drastically reduced.

In addition to cost savings, IDC found that study participants had $194 million higher or protected revenue on average per year. For medium and large enterprises, these tangible savings are hard to ignore.


Security remains a top concern among enterprise executives. Especially when it comes to private clouds, public clouds, hybrid clouds, and multicloud solutions. And for good reason.

With each passing year, there are new threats to cloud platforms. There’s a reason the majority of credit card transactions and banking activity still run on mainframe solutions. That reason is security.

IDC’s research touches on some key security benefits to mainframe digital transformation. Historically, mainframes have been more secure, in part, due to their isolated positions. As these mainframes become incorporated with connected technologies, new security layers are required.

Most mainframe digital transformations include updates to modern mainframe analytics and monitoring protocols. When the historical security benefits of mainframe technology are combined with these additional layers, security across the entire digital ecosystem is arguably unbeatable.

Speed and Agility

For mission critical tasks, mainframe processing cannot be beat. Some mainframes can process over 1 million transactions per second. Likewise, uptime is often calculated in decades, as opposed to mere weeks or years.

Consider the computing power and reliability of mainframe applications versus distributed cloud systems. It’s obvious why mainframes are still the default for processing mission-critical tasks.

When you undergo a mainframe digital transformation, you pair the inherent agility of cloud services with the raw processing power of mainframe systems. The combined speed and agility are the reason many enterprises are choosing a hybrid cloud approach to digital transformation. It’s a powerful one-two punch. When done correctly, the business outcomes are profound.

Curious how you can get started on your mainframe digital transformation? Sola from Akana is the quickest, most reliable, efficient, and economical mainframe digital transformation enablement platform available. It is used in mission-critical applications by some of the biggest names on the Fortune 500.

GET THE White Paper

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Mainframe to Cloud: What You Need to Know   

When embarking on a mainframe digital transformation, there are dozens of decisions to be made. One of the most important ones along your journey will be how you distribute your:

  • Data.
  • Application processing.
  • Digital infrastructure.

Organizations that opt for multicloud or cloud native solutions choose to completely outsource tasks that their mainframe used to handle. This means that they have little-to-no data storage, application presence, or processing happening on-premises. While many have claimed this as an inevitable path for all enterprises, we disagree.

Organizations can take a more conservative mainframe-to-cloud approach as a means of testing whether cloud technologies can improve competitiveness. They can do this, while at the same time, keeping the integrity of their mainframe secure.

Cloud native and multicloud methods work wonderfully for digital upstarts. Although for the majority of medium and large enterprises, the mainframe will remain an important factor for many years.

For the purpose of this blog post, mainframe digital transformation means bringing your mainframe into the modern fold. There are two common steps for achieving these ends. Many organizations embrace a hybrid cloud model while taking advantage of API management best practices. Note that these approaches are not exclusive. They can, and should, work together.

Hybrid Cloud

A hybrid cloud approach delivers agility and interoperability. With hybrid cloud, your organization can:

  • Reap all the benefits of your mainframe technology.
  • Incorporate the scalability and agility of the cloud.

But what does hybrid cloud entail? This is usually defined as leveraging a mix of public cloud, private cloud, and on-premises technologies. It is a practical approach to your digital transformation strategy. 

Hybrid cloud allows you to maintain local storage, workloads, applications, and services. At the same time, you can safely scale agile workloads and application features via the cloud. In addition, greater interoperability is within reach. Especially compared to a few short years ago.


Many vendors who used to compete with cloud suppliers now run on these platforms. Therefore, they have an interoperability incentive.  For an enterprise seeking custom configurations around specific industry needs, hybrid cloud is ideal.

Now that you're familiar with the hybrid cloud approach, let’s shift to API management.

API Management Approach

API management has become a critical component to a successful mainframe digital transformation.

The API management approach is most accurately described as an API-first approach. Many enterprises embark upon mainframe digital transformation by evolving their technology stack first. But those that prioritize API management begin by connecting disparate digital properties via APIs.

By exposing lines of business, applications, and even mainframe technology via APIs, a new ecosystem can be quickly created. And this can happen without the need for investing in new platforms.

For example, Sola mainframe allows you to securely expose your mainframe via APIs to private clouds, public clouds, applications, or other disparate technologies. Using an incremental approach, Sola can connect your mainframe to various lines-of-business and cloud technologies in a matter of minutes.  

Once available, a developer community can leverage this API ecosystem to innovate and make use of disparate technologies. The APIs, acting as proxies, allow various systems to work in conjunction – without the need for reconciling coding language, database disparities, or functional requirements. Likewise, API analytics allow for a centralized management of these systems, which in turn can drastically improve security.

Mainframe to Cloud in Minutes

Watch the webinar below to see how Sola lets you go from mainframe to cloud in minutes.


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COBOL Mainframe Considerations: The Time for Transformation Is Now

When it comes to mainframe digital transformation, the time is now.


Nearly all mainframe implementations run on COBOL, which is one of the oldest developer languages around. Unfortunately, many technical staff and IT professionals who are comfortable working with mainframes and COBOL are reaching retirement age. In addition, few young developers have interest in learning COBOL, or working with mainframes.

So, how prevalent is COBOL? There are over 200 billion lines of COBOL code running on mainframes.  This represents a huge investment in complex business rules developed over decades. These rules are what has run core business functions for many years. Enormous risks to the business are common when someone tries to recode these in a modern languages for cloud deployment. Which is why exposing those rules, as is, to the cloud through the use of modern APIs is often faster, easier, and a much safer solution.

If you put off your mainframe digital transformation, even for a few years, you may not be able to find developers to work on your mainframe. Honestly, you risk not being able to locate source code, access applications, or even understand how your mainframe runs. It goes without saying that troubleshooting, fixing, or replacing a mainframe application or systems in the long-term could become impossible. The cost to the enterprise in this scenario would be vast.

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Achieve Mainframe Digital Transformation With Sola

With Sola, you can embrace a hybrid cloud approach through API management to go from mainframe to cloud with APIs in a matter of days. This has allowed our customers to leverage millions of dollars in existing mainframe investments while building out their API portfolio. Additionally, Sola runs entirely on the mainframe. This eliminates the need for unreliable and expensive middleware. This also makes maintaining and troubleshooting simpler due to fewer moving parts. Naturally, it can also run off the mainframe as well.

In short, Sola delivers:

  •  Cost-savings — in the millions.
  •  Security to your tech stack.
  •  Speed and agility.

Watch the Sola demo to learn more.

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