Gary Thornhill

Mainframe systems are incumbent in nearly all large financial institutions and incredibly powerful at processing high volume transactions. Mainframe is here to stay, but it is in desperate need of modernising.

DevOps has been seen by some as not suited to the mainframe. However, recent legislation and fast-growing competition are forcing large financials to keep pace or lose out. Mainframe modernisation is urgently needed to remain competitive in this market.

“One of the major problems faced by Mainframe teams is that organisations have been operating in the same way for over 30 years,” explains Gary Thornhill, CEO of Sandhata Technologies.

“Mainframes are often at the bottom of business priorities but they should be at the top. The large, more conservative organisations could go out of business, unless they speed up key business processes that are driven by Mainframes.”

Very long cycle times and skills shortages and bottlenecks contribute to this inability to be competitive. Thorough testing is also a prevalent issue.

“Mainframe testing can be somewhat of an afterthought,” adds Priya Raju, Head of DevOps Advisory at Sandhata Technologies.

“Quality assurance work is rarely given organisation wide focus. This narrow focus is a risk. Business drivers need to be aligned to technology and it is imperative that testing and quality assurance is a part of every delivery from the start.”

Thornhill thinks that finance sector businesses using legacy technology are some of the most at risk organisations. He cites an evolving regulatory environment, as well as competition from younger, more agile providers such as FinTechs and Challenger Banks as reasons. He sees DevOps as being central to overcoming the issues faced by Mainframe users in the sector.

“It takes a lot of resources to replace a legacy system. In most instances it is best to enhance the existing system. DevOps brings an efficient and lean process with a wide scope, breaking down bottlenecks and achieving ‘quick wins’. Institutions have been putting off major investment in Mainframe technology for too long. This is due to a lack of experience and expertise and a tendency to resist change given perceived operational risk.”

For CTOs and CIOs facing legacy mainframe technology, it is becoming increasingly important to transform customer experience and ensure corporate governance. The advice given to these individuals by Sandhata, is to look at modernising, not replacing Mainframes.

Thornhill believes there should also be a focus on up-skilling the team and adding support from specialists where needed. He believes that many organisations can learn from other teams within their own businesses that have already adopted DevOps principles to good effect.

When it comes to banks he thinks that they should adopt automation practices and make DevOps a strategic business priority.

“Continuing with a ‘no-change’ policy, when it comes to legacy systems, will be expensive and add-ons will be endless. Without DevOps, organisations won’t be able to serve the demands of customers. Doing nothing is not an option, most organisations will fail if they take no action. There is a huge opportunity for DevOps in Mainframe environments. Focusing on this with company-wide objectives can deliver a competitive edge.”

 

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