Ewa Zborowska
Ewa Zborowska (Research Director, AI Europe)

Mainframes are a staple of the European enterprise. They’re reliable, powerful, have been around for decades, and many organizations continue to use them for their most crucial business functions. Mainframe apps are common among information-intensive industries areas such as banking, government, healthcare, insurance, or utilities.

With the rise of new technologies like the cloud and low-cost servers, many predicted the mainframe’s demise. But guess what? It’s still alive and kicking, and here’s why.

Unmatched Performance: Mainframes excel at high-speed transaction processing. They handle enormous volumes of transactions swiftly and cost-effectively. This is why banks rely on them for core operations. Transactions like credit card processing and ATM withdrawals happen seamlessly, thanks to mainframes. They’re also the power behind those overnight batch runs for processing customer statements and reports.

Data Handling Prowess: Mainframes have the muscle to handle multiple terabytes of data effortlessly – the capability is vital in sectors like government, healthcare, or insurance.

Ability to Adopt: YES! Mainframes have adapted to stay relevant. Once bound to COBOL and proprietary OS, they now embrace modern programming languages like Python, Java, JavaScript, and C++. This multilingual flexibility allows them to use sophisticated tools from the x86 server world.

AI and Machine Learning: With support for languages like Scala, Python, TensorFlow, and Apache SparkML, they make interesting hosts for machine learning. It has become possible to integrate valuable mainframe data with analytics platforms, eliminating the need for data off-loading.

Security Supremacy: Mainframes rule when it comes to security. Their processing power allows for high end-to-end encryption without performance sacrifices.

So, if they are perfect, why aren’t they? Because they can also become very expensive to maintain, and often just can’t keep up with the demands of the modern world.

That’s why more and more European organizations are modernizing their mainframe applications. Skillfully done, modernization offers all the benefits of a mainframe without the drawbacks. It can help you with:

Saving cost: Maintaining mainframes isn’t cheap. There are hardware, software, and skilled personnel costs. Modernization might seem like a costly adventure, but it actually leads to significant savings in the long run.

Improving scalability and agility: Mainframes aren’t inherently scalable, which is a problem in today’s ever-changing business landscape. Migrating to new platforms allows for easier scaling and adaptation to shifting workloads.

Enhancing integration: Mainframes often use legacy technologies that make integration with modern systems and cloud services a headache. Modernization lets you embrace agile development methodologies, microservices, and containerization, making it easier to adapt and release new features.

Attracting talent: As older IT professionals retire; mainframe expertise is becoming scarcer. Modern technologies attract a larger talent pool, making it easier to find skilled professionals for modernized systems. And it is easier to maintain necessary apps.

Improving UX: Users expect web-based interfaces, mobile compatibility, and responsive design.

Mainframes struggle with this, but modernization can provide a competitive edge by improving the user experience. And modernization doesn’t have to be painful. Here are a few tips to make your mainframe modernization journey if not fun, then surely more painless:

  • Start small: Don’t try to modernize everything at once. Start with a few key elements and then gradually work your way to the rest.
  • Get help from a trusted partner: There are several companies that specialize in mainframe modernization. They can help you assess your needs, develop a plan, and execute the migration.
  • Do your research: There are a lot of different mainframe modernization options available. Do your research and choose the one that’s right for you, but be creative, don’t be afraid to think outside the box and come up with your own approach.
  • Set realistic expectations: Modernization is a complex process. Don’t expect it to happen overnight.
  • Be patient: There will be challenges along the way. Be patient and don’t give up.

Will there be challenges? There will be. Modernization can be a costly undertaking, but it’s important to remember that the cost of not modernizing can be even higher. Modernization is a complex process that requires careful planning and execution. There is always some risk involved in any major IT project. Modernization is no exception. And surely, there is a shortage of skilled professionals with the knowledge and experience to modernize mainframe applications.

Mainframe applications are here to stay, but modernization is essential for staying competitive in today’s digital era. Whether you choose to recompile with emulators, migrate gradually, focus on component-level changes, or opt for lifting and shifting, the key is to adapt while preserving what makes mainframes valuable.


To see how European organizations approach mainframe apps modernizations, please read:

Mainframe and Cloud 1/3: What Do European Organizations Plan to Do with Mainframe Applications in the Context of Cloud?

Mainframe and Cloud 2/3: What Strategies Are European Organizations Employing to Migrate Mainframe Applications to the Cloud?

Mainframe and Cloud 3/3: Why Do Some European Companies Have No Plans to Migrate Their Mainframe Applications to the Cloud?


To see what it means for service providers, please read:

Turning Challenges into Success – Mainframe App Modernization Offers Opportunities for IT Services Providers

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