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May 16, 2019updated 17 May 2019 12:38pm

Swisscom Dumps Mainframes for Private Cloud – Cuts IT Costs 60%

First full mainframe migration without rewriting or recompiling applications

By CBR Staff Writer

A major Swiss telecommunications and IT provider has successfully moved all business critical legacy mainframe applications and data to x86 servers/private cloud – without any data reformatting or recompilation of its application programme code – in a move that it says will slash its IT costs by 60 percent.

Swisscom – Switzerland’s answer to BT, as the country’s original monopoly provider – says the business-critical applications came in at 2,500 installed MIPS (million instructions per second) and managed billing, geography and address information and line administration for the provider’s entire fixed line network. All this workload now runs on Swisscom’s own private cloud. (Which is built on ESX vdirector running on EMC/Cisco x86 hardware and storage).

The shift (which sharply cuts the cost of software licensing and capital expenditure
associated with large machines) was made using LzLabs’ Software Defined Mainframe (SDM); a container-based technology that executes on open systems, with no requirement for recompilation or conversion of data types, and was inspired by Swisscoms’ outgoing mainframe maintenance chief who wanted to hand over more modern architecture to his successor.

The SDM allows applications to be “sliced into chunks” that can be moved step by step to minimise risk, with application data remaining unchanged. A software container manages what IDC describes as “faithful recreations of mainframe subsystems” — i.e.,
job control language, TP monitors, and databases — to make the applications
believe they are still running on the original platform.

The two started talking four years ago, but have extensive testing and running the applications on a parallel x86 environment, the migration process took just one night; with the mainframe workloads now able to interact with open source tools of Swisscom’s choice, like OpenShift.

LzLabs: A Farewell Present from Swisscom’s Mainframe Veteran

Swisscom’s Werner Pfaffli, who had maintained the company’s mainframes for drove the project, the company said. As he geared up for retired he had been assessing different ways to modernise the company’s infrastructure for handover to the next generation. Top of mind: that next generation is thin on COBOL experts.

LzLabs’ CMO Dale Vecchio told Computer Business Review: “[Many] organisations have wanted to migrate off the mainframe for some time. It’s only recently that this desire has reached a boiling point. This is due to a combination of three factors: The decline of mainframe skills in the workforce hitting a tipping point, the recent significant developments in the capabilities of x86 and the cloud, and LzLabs being the first provider to offer mainframe migration without rewriting or recompiling the applications.”

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He added: “With mainframers retiring, approaches based on rewriting or recompiling are increasingly fraught with risk, as source code availability and application know-how is fundamental to making these migration options work. Our approach solves this problem, as the Software Defined Mainframe requires no source code availability or recompilation. So, while Swisscom is the first to achieve an entire migration to the cloud, we don’t expect they will be the last.”

Mark Cresswell, CEO, LzLabs, added: “The SDM was developed in-house by LzLabs… by a group of designers and programmers with a rare combination of skills (mainframe and Linux), and the unique ability to exploit the relationship between open-source, Moore’s law and containers and apply this to the mainframe environment.”

He added: “SDM runs the mainframe programs in a way similar to that of  highly optimized JVM. References the program may make to mainframe operating system, subsystem and language services, are handled by SDM in conjunction with the underlying Linux OS, file system, Postgres and LDAP databases.”

See also: Are Delays to Mainframe Modernisation Restricting Innovation?

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