Use Micro-Services and APIs to Create Digital Services off Mainframe

July 1, 2022  |  Andrew Dvirnyk

Micro-services and APIs for mainframe may not seem like the obvious choice for dealing with mainframe issues. Let’s look at these digital services in the context of a typical mainframe user’s biggest challenge: cost.

Cost is always part of the conversation. You might be deciding if to upgrade mainframe system or replace your existing system. Or, you may be looking for practical ways to maintain the system that supports your organization. When it comes to cost concerns in the IT space, older systems can often mean higher bills.

And if you are like most organizations on mainframe, your system is old. System age is not a problem in and of itself. As long as your mainframe is agile. So, what is a hallmark of agility on mainframe? An agile mainframe is one that allows for collaboration between software development and operations teams. Enter cloud solutions and other micro-services. These innovative solutions offer cost savings and utility for mainframe users. Effectively, APIs leverage new technologies to support old technologies and protect technology investments.


Also known as micro-services architecture, microservices are an approach for developing software systems. The purpose of a microservice is to build single-function modules for software systems, breaking the systems down into programs that are self-contained. These modules then work with operations and interfaces.

As such, the microservices approach in a mainframe environment is useful for leveraging the existing system to increase efficiencies and lower development and other costs. Microservices make it possible to create digital services off mainframe.


Application Programming Interface, commonly called API. APIs enable applications to communicate with each other. As such, an API makes it possible for applications (including applications on mainframe) to access data. Further, APIs enable interaction with microservices, as well as operating systems and external software.

With APIs, organizations on mainframe get the flexibility that this type of interface offers. APIs make mainframes more agile. As a result, they can also make your mainframe more efficient. And ultimately, it can make mainframe improvements more cost effective, all while increasing its utility.

Microservices, Digital Applications, and Costs

So, let’s look at micro-services and digital applications (like APIs) in the context of costs. Applications that enable communications between parts of a system are significantly cheaper to produce and implement than new hardware.

Because microservices and digital applications are flexible, it is easier and much more cost effective to make changes to them than it is to make hardware-level changes. Looking at it this way, digital applications become not only an efficient way to get more from your mainframe. They become a much more cost-effective way to maintain an agile mainframe, despite the age of the original system.

Without digital applications, on the other hand, many organizations find themselves throwing money at mainframe problems. This is part of why mainframes are too often (and not always correctly) associated with cost and complexity.

Micro-Services Security

Of course, digital applications present their own set of challenges. Whenever we talk about third party applications, microservices, or APIs, the question of security comes up. This is where micro-services can feel like a “double edged sword.” On the one hand, microservices provide much-needed agility for our mainframes. On the other hand, the same open architecture of micro-services that helps make this kind of agility possible also makes micro-services vulnerable.

The complexity and the openness of the applications we build using a microservice architecture renders them significantly more vulnerable to attack than the traditional types of application models many of us are familiar with. While this is important to recognize (and plan for), it does not mean you should steer clear of microservices. It does, however, mean that you must enable security measures to protect your systems from risk.

Request authentication, encryption, and hard code certificates are all ways to make micro-systems more secure. Another way to protect micro-services from threats is to leverage DevOps. In an upcoming article, we share a list of the Top 5 Ways to Improve Microservice Security.

Offsite Mainframe Hosting

Even with investments into security for microservices, utilizing software integrations like APIs and others saves money and improves mainframe utility. On the other hand, even with those savings, some organizations are finding on-site mainframes cost prohibitive. For organizations who want to access the power of mainframe without the associated expenses of managing hardware, offsite mainframe hosting is a cost-effective option.

In our next article, we delve into additional ways to save on mainframe related expenses. Specifically, we dive into the whys and hows of offsite mainframe hosting. In that article (coming up soon), we help you explore the cost and efficiency benefits of hosting your infrastructure through another company.

Find Out Faster

Do you want to learn more about offsite mainframe hosting for your organization? To get an alert when we publish an article, subscribe to the IBA Group blog now.

    Access full story Please give your company email to get a file.

      Subscribe Please give your company email to subscribe.