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The Evolution of Mainframe Education: A Follow-Up

Kyndryl works hard to provide opportunities for young people in the field of mainframe technology. Although many mainframers are approaching retirement, Kyndryl is smashing that paradigm. Last year, I wrote an article on the first Kyndryl Internship. I thought it was very important to pen a follow-up to that article, as this topic could not be more critical to the future of the mainframe.

Passing the proverbial baton of mainframe knowledge to the next class of mainframers is a task that I am passionate about in support of the mainframe ecosystem that runs our world economy. We need to do a good job of educating our young university graduates and newcomers to the platform as we welcome them into new, exciting and vibrant careers as mainframers.

The Kyndryl Internship Program

In mid-year 2023, I had the extreme pleasure to work once again with our talented mainframe interns, who were members of the second Kyndryl Internship Program. The 12-week program had 48 participants and covered several project areas for Kyndryl, including our mainframe discipline in the Columbia, Missouri, area. Our mainframe architect interns all had that “fire in the belly” that I value so highly in work ethics. I want to thank one of our mainframe architects, Kim Duran, who helped me to run this year’s program once again.

The Kyndryl mainframe internship experience was that of an introductory mainframe architect but updated from the 2022 class. The intern was exposed to zSystems lab work, architect tools, disruptive topics, architectural thinking and Team Solution Design methodologies. The program also offered real-life customer experience with the zCloud team and customer shadowing. A team presentation at the end of the internship evaluated the skills and understanding obtained during the experience. Interns acquired a basic understanding of why mainframe architecture is necessary in modern industry and were exposed to a variety of tools, processes, methodologies, hands-on lab work and architecture of the modern mainframe.

One of the assignments in our internship was the completion of disruptive technology research papers. Our five Kyndryl mainframe architect interns did a fantastic job in the construction and presentation of their assigned topics. The papers were in direct support of our mainframe strategy: the right workload for the right platform. Here’s a look at what each of the five interns crafted.

Chase Seider // Old Dominion University

Chase Seider, a senior at Old Dominion University, authored a paper on the topic of Microsoft Azure and the mainframe. Per Chase, the Azure Power Platform allows for the development and modernization of z/OS applications on the cloud. It also works in tandem with DevOps for zSystems and permits enterprise data to be used throughout the Microsoft Power Platform. This includes applications like Power BI, Power Apps, Power Pages, Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents.

Azure is a leader in mainframe migration and stresses using the right tool for the right job. Most applications cannot be lifted and shifted into the cloud infrastructure. There are several ways to migrate, mainly the approaches of rebuild, rehost, replace and retire are considered. With Azure, VM’s replace LPARs and cloud architecture emulates mainframe architecture. Typically, one VM is used for the application and a separate VM is used for the database in most situations. Mainframe applications like scheduling (TWS-OPC), security (RACF) and monitoring are available in Azure as Azure Scheduler, Azure Active Directory and Azure Monitoring. In this way, no mainframe functionality is lost.

There are many benefits to using Azure to migrate mainframe applications and data to the cloud. Azure has a strong partnership with Kyndryl and has built a robust data connection pipeline with Kyndryl. This accelerates innovation. Microsoft Azure has proven that both Kyndryl and Microsoft are solid business partners and will continue to expand that proven relationship.

Eric Hooten // Missouri University

Eric Hooten, a senior at Missouri University, authored his paper on the mainframe application modernization. Per Eric, in today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, the mainframe continues to play a pivotal role in supporting critical business operations. However, as organizations strive to keep pace with the demands of the digital age, the need to modernize mainframe applications becomes increasingly apparent. The process of application modernization on the mainframe is not only a matter of survival but an opportunity to unlock untapped potential for innovation, efficiency and scalability.

Eric discusses a three-pronged approach to modernizing mainframe applications. These three aspects lay the foundation for a successful modernization journey:

  • Changes to infrastructure
  • Advancements in architecture
  • Transformation of the development process

To remain competitive in the digital era, businesses must embrace the power of the cloud. Integrating cloud hyperscalers with the mainframe environment opens a world of possibilities, offering unparalleled scalability, flexibility and cost-effectiveness. Harnessing the cloud’s capabilities can lead to enhanced performance, reduce operational burdens and improve disaster recovery measures. Modernizing the mainframe’s architecture through the adoption of containers and microservices is a pivotal step toward promoting agility and responsiveness in application development. These cutting-edge technologies streamline application deployment, increasing portability and foster a modular approach to development.

In the race to stay ahead, the development process must also evolve to align with the speed and demands of the modern digital landscape. Enter DevOps, a transformative approach that bridges the gap between development and operations teams, fostering collaboration and continuous improvement. By addressing changes to infrastructure, architectural advancements and transformation in development style, businesses can unlock the full potential of their mainframe applications, ensuring they stay competitive and innovative in the modern age.

Lourdes Frempong // Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Lourdes Frempong, a senior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, authored a paper on the topic of Google Cloud Platform and the mainframe. Per Lourdes, the concept of network-based computing has existed since the 1960s; however, the network-based computing that forms the modern cloud first came about in the mid to late 2000s. In 2008, Google emerged with a preview of their cloud service compute offering: Google App Engine. A few years later, GCP was expanded to include storage, database and networking resources.

In the cloud industry, three cloud service providers (CSPs) dominate the market share: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. These hyperscalers, the top three CSPs that provide scalable infrastructure on an enterprise level, provide a range of services based on the Anything as a Service business model (XaaS). The XaaS business model gives customers the option to choose a pay-as-you-go pricing model enabling customers to be more agile with their operational expenditure (OpEx) and scale their IT budgets with ease. Like other hyperscalers, Google focuses on Infrastucture as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS) as their main business models for customers.

What separates Google Cloud from other hyperscaler competitors? GCP excels with its PaaS offerings. PaaS solutions eliminate the need for infrastructure management by customers while providing an adequate development platform for deploying and maintaining applications and workloads. Containerization is a major aspect of PaaS solutions. Containerization allows users to host software code on an operating system that contains only the resources needed to deploy and manage applications. Google was behind the popular container orchestration platform known as Kubernetes (K8). GCP contains the popular Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE).

Nabeel Syed // University of Texas at Dallas

Nabeel Syed, a junior at University of Texas at Dallas, authored his paper on the topic of Amazon AWS and the mainframe. Per Nabeel, AWS’s Mainframe Modernization is AWS’s mainframe service used to migrate workloads from the mainframe to the cloud. As the name implies, AWS Mainframe Modernization helps modernize mainframe applications by running them on AWS-managed

AWS Mainframe Modernization comes with tools and resources to help businesses fully integrate their preexisting mainframe environment with that of a fully cloud-native one. AWS Mainframe Modernization acts as a service that analyzes any application that runs on a mainframe, and using various built-in development and integration tools, provides ways to migrate, run, operate and manage them in hybrid environments and runtimes. AWS has partnered with Micro Focus, a software company specializing in cloud development that assists with enterprise software solutions; in this case, software assisting applications in migration from the mainframe.

Zach Thomas // Missouri University

Last but certainly not least, Zach Thomas, a junior at Missouri University, authored his paper on the topic of mainframe modernization. Per Zach, the top industries must keep up with an ever-expanding need for processing consumer requests. As technology gets older and talent gets rarer, an aging mainframe system is just too difficult to maintain. Not even to mention the cost. To get the most out of their machines, companies need to modernize. In this era, it isn’t as much of an option as is imperative.

Zach’s paper addresses the challenges that are faced by companies who rely on old mainframes and have a need to modernize. By talking about these obstacles, we can discover why a company may push to modernize. Not only that, but we will dive into strategies, benefits, risks and technologies that help us modernize. Companies using outdated architectures will be able to successfully traverse this evolving technological space and unlock innovation within their infrastructure.

When talking about modernizing and making a push to do so, it is important that one knows why they should make the push. Zach says that mainframes are already modern machines—maybe even the most modern, effective machines of today’s age.

The caveat, though, is that it’s easy to let them fall behind in certain areas. Traditionally, mainframes have always been the workhorse for most large-scale computing needs. They handle important business applications and high-volume transaction processing which makes them an asset for many industries like finance and airlines. Despite their benefits, they eventually require modernization (or “optimization”) for one reason or another: outdated code, overpriced maintenance, lack of flexibility, outdated dependencies or unintuitive user experience. Obviously, these things have an impact on both business and IT operations. When you don’t adapt to an updating environment you get problems like trouble developing new applications, suboptimal resource utilization, and unreliable uptime.

Input From Jonathan Dietz

For our second-year internship, I asked Jonathan Dietz, vice president of core enterprise and zCloud of Kyndryl, for his thoughts on this topic and he stated:

“Kyndryl’s point of view on the direction of the mainframe has not changed: we help our clients modernize on, integrate with and move off. This is where education evolves, and what we need to educate also evolves.
Each of these approaches require the skills to understand how to get workloads to run more efficiently on the mainframe, and to understand what workloads can and should move to other platforms while still ensuring they still integrate with the workloads that stay. We need to have people with the skills to understand the mainframe infrastructure, the applications and the hyperscalers. Providers like Kyndryl that train and bring these skills to the market are going to be invaluable to all industries. This is why we encourage everyone to never stop learning and to continue expanding their perspective.”

Keeping Up With Mainframe Education

As an adjunct professor with Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, I have authored and delivered my Enterprise Computing class to a myriad of IT and CS students over the past five years. The class is always fully booked as mainframe education remains a very popular topic that needs to be continuously advocated at our universities. The Kyndryl Internship Program is a prime example of our commitment to mainframe education.