Sergey Tarasov - stock.adobe.com

AWS eyes mainframe workloads

Amazon Web Services is doubling down on efforts to help its partners address the growing demand for capabilities to migrate mainframe workloads to the cloud

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is eyeing mainframe workloads with a new partner competency programme that will validate and recognise systems integrators and consulting firms that have the knowhow to move mainframe applications to the cloud.

Speaking to Computer Weekly on the sidelines of AWS re:invent this week, Sandy Carter, vice-president of AWS worldwide public sector partners and programmes, said while the company has been supporting partners in application migration efforts, mainframe applications are the “last big frontier” in cloud migration.

“At the global level, we are seeing tremendous interest in migrating mainframes,” said Carter, adding that US state governments that have accelerated their move to the cloud amid the Covid-19 pandemic, for example, are now casting their sights on mainframes in the next phase of migration.

In Asia-Pacific, Carter noted that the number of mainframe workloads remains substantial in countries such as Japan and Australia, particularly in banks and governments, with some mainframes processing up to 30 billion transactions a day.

Mainframe experts, however, are hard to come by, with many already retired or close to retiring from their careers. Carter said AWS’s partner competency programmes typically provide training and certification to equip partners with the skills they need.

For a start, AWS has pre-qualified four independent software vendors, including Micro Focus and Blu Age, and three consulting partners including Infosys and Deloitte, in its mainframe migration competency programme.

Tan Lee Chew, AWS’s managing director for worldwide public sector in ASEAN, said the cloud supplier is now focused on working with the global systems integrators in the programme to move mainframe workloads to the cloud, “because we know that in the fullness of time, that's going to happen”.

Read more about modernising mainframe computing

Indeed, the migration of mainframe applications to public cloud services is already a boon to Micro Focus, which expects the pipeline from its mainframe migration business to last 20 years, said Stephen McNulty, its president for Asia-Pacific and Japan.

“Our biggest growth business in APAC is taking Cobol code off the mainframe and putting it on cheaper hardware, or on AWS and Azure,” McNulty told Computer Weekly earlier this year.

“We have many financial institution customers in Asia and around the world running mainframe applications on public cloud, so they can run a proper DevOps process all the way through to continual improvement and delivery.

“Some of them might take development and testing off the mainframe, put it on Azure or AWS, try that for a year and then start moving production workloads to public cloud or to a private cloud datacentre.”

In Singapore, DBS Bank plans to chip away its mainframe footprint, with only a small part of it remaining through containerisation. The bank, Southeast Asia’s largest lender, recently signed a seven-year deal with IBM to run and modernise mission-critical applications on IBM z15 mainframes.

In Australia, homegrown retailer Kmart started migrating its mainframe applications to AWS this year as part of its technology modernisation plan, which involves lifting and shifting some Cobol code to the cloud, as well as rebuilding some code into microservices.

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