Recent Accenture research shows that modernising mainframes is now a top priority for executives across the region

In this blog, I want to showcase this research, explain why mainframe modernisation – with an emphasis on cloud – is emphatically the direction of travel from here, and demonstrate how Accenture and AWS, working together, can provide a secure, fast-track to the value and competitive advantage it brings.

Mainframes in context
Worldwide, more than 70% of Fortune 500 companies run their business-critical applications on mainframes. Many have these legacy stacks at the core of their data centres. And in sectors dealing with huge amounts of sensitive data, like public service, banking, insurance and healthcare, their usage is even more prevalent.

A fact of life for the past 20 to 30 years, mainframe systems are still around because they’re good at what they were built to do: handling thousands of users simultaneously and hosting essential, non-stop applications.

It’s clear, though, that they present some major and growing challenges. Most of them are built on decades-old coding languages, like COBOL, for which skills are in increasingly short supply.

Mainframes are expensive to run too. But most importantly, and especially now with so many disruptive digital-first competitors – like Afterpay or Kogan – entering their core markets – mainframes can’t support the new, nimble, real-time service delivery and customer experiences that are so vital.

The modernisation advantage
The challenges created by massive deployments of monolithic applications on legacy infrastructures have been accentuated over the past two years. COVID-19 dramatically accelerated the need for digital transformation. Consumer behaviours changed almost overnight and many traditional companies have struggled to keep up.

Led by the need to be more agile, provide new personalised experiences, reduce costs per transaction, and become more competitive, large ANZ enterprises are increasingly focused on migrating applications best suited to cloud.

The key drivers for this? 93% of executives identified the primary benefit as better integration of existing systems with other well-known platforms. 60% of them highlighted increased agility.

It explains why we found that 60% of ANZ enterprises have an active mainframe-to-cloud initiative in progress. Another 33% are considering it.

Barriers on the journey
The reality right now, however, is that mainframes still constitute the core of most traditional organisations. Companies are making progress with modernisation, undoubtedly. But it’s not happening fast enough.

Half of ANZ companies are only in the early stages of these initiatives. Just 16% report completing or being close to completing a migration. One reason? Their legacy “heavy metal” infrastructures impede visibility into what data and applications they’ve got, where they are, and how to migrate them onto a newer platform.

Many companies are approaching this dilemma by overlaying their core systems with a front-ended customer experience platform, and starting to deploy new services around it. It means they can improve customer experiences, to an extent. But with mainframes dependent on batch processing, they’re unable to provide them in real time. And that’s a crucial differentiator today.

In our survey, we found another major issue that’s preventing companies from moving ahead as fast as they need to. The majority of ANZ enterprises (75%) point to a lack of skills and experience in cloud development, with similar deficits cited in application modernisation (52%), and cloud architecture (42%).

Moving forward
Most companies are fully aware of the mainframe challenge. But it’s so vast, wide and critical, they don’t know how to tackle it or where to start.

For those that have got underway, there’s an emphasis on rapid “lift and shift” of traditional infrastructures into a virtualised construct of a mainframe in the cloud. It’s a great approach for bridging the mainframe/public cloud divide and it’s becoming increasingly popular across large enterprises.

Enterprises tend to follow a phased approach to get these migrations and replatforming initiatives underway. They start with some of the low-risk workloads and applications running on the mainframe – typically “non-prod” systems and/or “test and dev” environments that are easy targets for PoCs and pilots.

Then they look at workloads running batch processes in the background. These are usually less critical and can be used to offload mainframe MIPS (machine capacity) and deploy it onto cloud. The third phase is migration of non-critical workloads running in production.

Realising the real benefits with Accenture and AWS
Decommissioning a mainframe is a daunting task for most organisations. It is complex and involves significant business risk, if not executed correctly. This is where the AWS platform stability, capabilities and performance married with the experience of Accenture in driving execution and change management across business and technology helps make it real for you.

Migrating applications into cloud addresses one of mainframe’s big issues head on. It removes the need to continue paying high fees for licensing, refresh, maintenance and so on. But because companies are essentially still running the same applications in an emulated environment, they can’t tap into the agility they urgently need.

We’re working with AWS across ANZ to help enterprises fast-track their mainframe migrations and progress rapidly to modernisation – reimagining the business by rewriting applications based on newly developed requirements.

In the Accenture AWS Business Group (AABG), we’ve created a one-of-a-kind partnership that unites the best of AWS's services with our unparalleled talent, resources and experience in this space to bring breakthrough speed and precision.

Globally, Accenture has over 30,000 trained AWS professionals, many of whom work directly with AWS professionals to build platforms and frameworks to ensure we have a repeatable, proven model for helping companies migrate and modernise their systems on AWS. We also have a number of programs available to fund these initiatives. Proven roadmaps and automation help companies migrate off legacy systems onto AWS, minimising any disruption to overall business operations.

The scope of what we offer together was recently extended significantly. During AWS re:Invent, in December 2021, AWS announced the launch of a new service. The specific goal? To support migrations of legacy workloads to the cloud and assess migration readiness.

Assessments of each company’s “as is” environment are a crucial first stage of any migration. Working with AWS, we establish the extent of what’s running on the mainframe, understand the infrastructure, applications and interdependencies and how all this operates in terms of the business services and CX that are being provided.

This is key to being able to map business services through to applications and infrastructure. Then we look at the best approach to migrate those applications and processes over onto cloud leveraging our inhouse tools and frameworks that matches patterns for accelerating your application migration and modernisation. Helping companies to develop the roadmap they need to move their cloud journey forward – from planning, change management, migration, modernisation, managed services and moving towards and end state of DevOps to support the agility your business demands. All done ensuring your business continues to operate without affecting your services.

Crucially too, we help them to plan a robust business case for migration, assessing the whole program from a commercial perspective to highlight the value that’s on the table, including up to 40% reduction in TCO.

The case for mainframe modernisation is clear-cut. So why AWS?
So what makes AWS such a great choice of partner for Accenture? First, it’s the leader in public cloud. It has the right partners and services, like Microfocus and Blue Age to help with virtualisation and modernisation. AWS also provides a full suite of services cutting across infrastructure, data, and modernised infrastructures right through to containerisation and serverless.

Then there’s security, of paramount importance for companies looking to migrate critical data and applications to cloud. Working with AWS, we’ve built assets to make sure that security is comparable to, if not stronger than, mainframe security. Crucially too, AWS is the one of a small number of hyperscalers recognised by the Australian government as a certified strategic cloud provider.

So whether you’re a government agency or in a highly regulated industry sector, AWS is officially the safest place to host sensitive data. That’s underlined by the recent announcement by SAP that AWS is the preferred cloud provider for their “Critical Data Cloud” managed service.

There’s more. Using its “availability zone” model, AWS delivers 99% service reliability, with less downtime and greater durability than other hyperscalers. Another headline benefit? There’s simply no substitute for professional experience. AWS has been doing this longer than anyone else, with multiple use-cases of successful migrations for enterprises across all industries.

It has built a mainframe competency program which means AWS partners can be validated against very rigid criteria to demonstrate that not only do they have the right skills, but also that they have hard evidence of repeat success.

But perhaps the single most important differentiator? Everything AWS does is focused on helping its customers succeed to the extent that it works with them proactively to reduce their cloud consumption. It does that because it’s confident that it builds trust and the savings will help to fund modernisation programs further down the line.

Achieving extraordinary results together
One of our most recent success stories is working together with AWS and Department of Home Affairs. Where we are improving security for all Australians by building a digital customer engagement platform for all travellers entering Australia instead of the paper-based systems that have been in place. Accenture is also modernising the visa processing system on AWS providing a fully digitised experience from end to end.

Ready to get started?
Accenture is helping enterprises across ANZ to modernise and provide better services with AWS. And we bring a unique industry focus with us. If you want to understand how we can help you develop the roadmap and business case for migrating and modernising your mainframe, please get in touch.

Learn more about our latest research Mainframe Modernisation – from legacy to cloud here: Mainframe Modernisation – From Legacy to Cloud | Accenture.

Sudesh Shah

Lead – Accenture AWS Business Group, Australia & New Zealand

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