LzLabs Software Defined Mainframe
Cloud Platform Innovation of the Year
Entry Description

LzLabs Software Defined Mainframe (SDM) is a legacy application rehosting and modernization platform. SDM is unique in that it enables mainframe applications to execute on open systems, with no source-code changes, recompilation or conversion of data types. SDM allows legacy applications to be incrementally modernized to contemporary languages and implementations, without compromising the operation of the system. In so doing, SDM removes the word “legacy” from the notion of mainframe applications - digital transformation is now possible for mainframe applications as they can work within the same development pipeline as applications that are considered more modern. 

For almost 30 years, businesses have been looking for a viable way to modernise and move away from the legacy mainframe IT systems that have underpinned business-critical processes. Mainframes have been the backbone of the world’s most established businesses for decades, yet research has shown that 69% of IT decision makers believe that the inflexibility of the mainframe limits their IT department’s ability to innovate. 95% of those surveyed see many advantages to moving applications off the mainframe, with greater development agility cited as one of the greatest advantages of such a move.

With SDM, businesses that have been shackled by mainframe systems have a viable, low-risk way to run business-critical mainframe applications on open systems and the Cloud. Once migrated, applications and data are integrated with modern data analytics and DevOps, allowing customers to re-join the world of innovation and remain competitive. 

Once mainframe programs, and any of their dependencies, run on Linux environments, they can be managed using the full range of tools and technologies found in modern development pipelines. Mainframe applications can benefit from graphical code-editors such as Eclipse with its range of plug-ins, testing tools, source-code management, containers & container repositories, continuous integration and deployment platforms. In effect, mainframe development is now the same proposition as all other development models within the business.

LzLabs has developed a set of libraries, built upon the solid foundation of Linux and other popular open-source projects, which behave the same way as the proprietary environment of the mainframe. Consequently, a mainframe application and any of its dependencies can now be containerized in exactly the same way as any other modern application. This simple ability ensures that a workstation or commodity server can virtualise a mainframe environment, dramatically enhancing test speed and efficiency.

Testing is a fundamental challenge in mainframe development. In modern environments, automated development pipelines continuously integrate changes across an application portfolio and subjects those changes to a myriad of tests – automatically and in many cases hundreds of times a day. In a native mainframe environment such flexibility and agility would be impossible, prohibiting mainframe users from experiencing the true innovation and stability that comes from frequent testing. SDM eliminates any dependencies the application under development may have had on a mainframe, it remains entirely in the Linux environment from inception to deployment.

Using SDM it is possible for a developer to spin up a full test environment for mainframe applications on their workstation, in the same way as they would for a Java or C# program. The entire development cycle for legacy applications can follow exactly the same pipeline as for other applications. The same agile models and CI/CD DevOps policies, with strong emphasis on “Shift-Left Testing”, can be employed. The same automated scale testing is possible. The same exploitation of open-source projects, which are fundamental to innovation and remaining competitive, can finally be considered and achieved.

Case Study:

In March 2019, Swisscom achieved a landmark in enterprise IT, becoming the first organisation ever to successfully switch off its IBM mainframe and move its entire mainframe application portfolio and data, without source code changes, to Linux systems in the cloud. 

The Swiss telecommunications and IT services provider faced significant pressures in a highly competitive and evolving telecommunications market. The need to focus spending in areas that provide the most business benefit forced the company to focus on optimising IT costs and reallocating capital to key areas of innovation. To achieve this, reducing mainframe expenditure became a key target. Like many of the world’s largest most established businesses, the company had been running the backbone of its IT on legacy mainframe systems for decades with no foreseeable exit route, so Swisscom faced an additional challenge to convince staff that such a radical project was even possible.  

Working with LzLabs, Swisscom achieved the previously unachievable, migrating its entire legacy mainframe application workload and data to the Cloud, without recompilation or data changes. In a world first, Swisscom was able to switch its legacy mainframe systems off altogether, with the LzLabs Software Defined Mainframe (SDM) running the company’s mission-critical landline management application portfolio on open Linux systems in the Cloud. With this single project, Swisscom has saved a staggering 50% of its IT expenditure for these applications, has upskilled mainframe staff in areas such as Cloud deployment, Linux and PostgreSQL management, and is able to invest savings and time in other areas.