Better to Upgrade Mainframe Systems or Replace?

June 10, 2022  |  Andrew Dvirnyk

Mainframe systems are expensive and complex. They often present legacy challenges that take time and resources to combat. So, for an enterprise looking to do a technology overhaul that reduces complexities and cost, it is common to ask whether it is better to upgrade mainframe systems or replace them.

Modernizing, or upgrading mainframe, turns out to offer a variety of advantages for enterprises working to achieve these goals. The cost (of both financial and human resources) of replacement outweighs that of upgrading. In fact, a mainframe upgrade can save money and time, reduce complexities, and empower your teams. Further, modernizing rather than replacing mainframe puts your organization in a position to utilize new, lightweight, affordable resources to get more from your existing mainframe without having to make major investments in the kinds of large-scale changes that create time lags and other issues.

Upgrading Mainframe Saves Money

While it is not always the case that upgrading is cheaper than replacing, in the case of mainframe, upgrading saves money. Upgrading mainframe systems is more cost effective than replacing the system. This is the case both in the immediate and over time.
So, consider the budget impact of your mainframe decisions. Make the case for modernizing mainframe by demonstrating, first how and why replacement costs outweigh the cost to upgrade.

Leverage Existing Assets

For starters, upgrading your mainframe helps to leverage existing mainframe assets. Let’s be clear. We are not saying that sticking with your existing mainframe means that you must “do more with less.” Quite the contrary, in fact. When you choose to upgrade, you are doing so in a way that allows you to capitalize on the system investments you have already made.

But you do not stop with your older investments, you leverage what you have already invested, and integrate new system improvements and new technologies to improve the speed and efficiency of your mainframe. Essentially, you use your existing technology assets as a foundation, on which you can build a stronger, more effective system.

Save Time

Building and implementing new systems is not just expensive. It is time consuming. As we so often note, time is our most precious asset. This is especially true in the technology space.

Upgrading existing mainframe applications is a significantly smaller time commitment than embarking on a mainframe replacement project. To save valuable time, assess the resources you have. Research tools like DevOps that you can use to your advantage in a modernized mainframe environment. And focus on upgrading your mainframe so it can work for your organization efficiently.

Upgrade Mainframe to Reduce Complexities

Mainframe complexity is a common challenge. However, that does not mean that you need to chuck your mainframe and start all over again with a new system. Nor does it mean that you need to be stuck with an outdated, overly complex system that costs you time and makes your employees miserable.

Instead, upgrade your mainframe to reduce complexities. Leverage new technologies and marry them with the existing mainframe landscape. This helps to fight the mainframe complexity that grows with each application update. Streamline and speed up!

Fight “Brain Drain”

According to Forrester Research, organizations that use mainframe lost 23% of their mainframe workforce between 2013 and 2018. Those numbers are increasing. And companies are replacing those losses at a level of roughly one to three.

The brain drain is real. And it is a real threat to mainframe-powered organizations. Upgrading mainframe systems helps to combat brain drain. In fact, mainframe modernization enables organizations to utilize young talent who are keen to work on modern, evolving technology. Building on that fresh motivation, IT teams get to show the next generation that, with modernization, upgraded mainframes offer fresh talent opportunities to do the kind of creative, engaging work they crave.

Further, because the competition to work on mainframe is not as steep, younger talent has the chance to stand out in the crowd. They develop necessary specialties that make them more marketable and could advance their careers faster. Keep this kind of motivation in mind when you are embarking on hiring initiatives. And when you are looking for ways to leverage the existing talent in your organization.

Utilize Support Tools

Let’s say it again: mainframe does not have to mean slow. Modernizing, or upgrading enables you to leverage the power of modern DevOps tools and technologies. These technologies have the power to increase continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) speeds by dozens of times.

DevOps enhances mainframe functionality across your organization by increasing both flexibility and agility. It allows for continuous delivery, a key feature of a modernized mainframe. In addition to improving cycle times, DevOps allows for more automation. Further, support tools like DevOps make information access and sharing easier, to promote more agile development. In this environment, your development team does more in less time.

 At the end of the day, whether to replace or upgrade mainframe systems is one of many technologies decisions that impact your organization. Carefully consider the cost, benefits, and opportunity of modernizing mainframe, then make strategic choices for how to do so. And how to maximize your upgrade.

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