The Cloud, major cornerstone of System z’s modernization and opening to the web

Cloud Computing et mainframe
The Cloud computing process and its inherent mobility, today associated with a multitude of new web-based architectures and technical standards, are forcing companies to rethink their z/mainframe platform and make it interactive with the web ecosystem, thus taking advantage of these recent technologies.

Web technologies, cornerstone of Cloud computing

The Cloud computing business model is dedicated to externalizing IT storage and information processing. Companies can dissociate themselves from centralized IT constraints, such as software installation and maintenance, storage management, data portability, etc. Therefore, the Cloud improves movement, sharing and collaborative processing of the information.

In practical terms, the Cloud is made up of data and solution components dispersed across different platforms, elements that interact with one another within the Cloud thanks to web service technologies. A simple web browser is enough to provide access to these components: an ideal solution to implement mobility and/or BYOD strategies.

Cloud and mainframe : similarities and differences

At first sight, z platforms and Cloud computing models share several key characteristics: reliability, scalability, agility, applications/data sharing capabilities, and transparent access for end-users. Additionally, the mainframe environment also benefits from a high level of security and a high availability.

Nevertheless, the main obstacle when you want to use the Cloud model on z platforms is the incompatibility of formats between mainframe data/applications and web protocols. To be implemented within the Cloud, mainframe applications have to be web enabled: access from any type of browser (including via tablets and smartphones), extended support of JavaScript, support of HTML5 and support of incoming and outgoing web services, etc. The role of the IT department would then be to implement a secure solution granting this web compatibility so that z/mainframe platforms can offer cloud computing services.

How to turn the mainframe Cloud-compatible?

One solution would be to install a protocol converter within the Z environment, like a collaborative middleware. Among other benefits, this solution would allow universal web access to any mainframe application, either from any browser and any web server: this is the UTC (Ultra Thin Client) model. Such a protocol converter would display mainframe transactions and data as web pages or web service protocols, without any changes of the original source code, fully integrating the mainframe application within the realm of the Cloud computing paradigm. Based on a two-tier architecture, with no requirement for intermediate servers nor additional user software, this solution would be the missing link between mainframe and Cloud technologies.

From a security perspective, a two-tier architecture is perfectly suited: compatible with both mainframe (RACF, TSS, ACF2) and network (SSL, SSO, Proxy, VPN) security standards, it provides an extensive range of customized possibilities (terminal control, selective encryption method, etc.). It also enables management features, such as keeping mainframe/web connections closed when they are no longer in use, all the while providing a source control of the data before sending it across the network.

Cloud & mainframe : a bright future

For many companies, whose main business model is centralized on mainframe applications and data, the collaborative middleware solution is a way to benefit from the best of both worlds in a highly secure environment. So they have a real interest in developing a Cloud integration strategy relying on the very strong potential of their underlying legacy platform and opening it to the world of internet and mobility. In other words: do more with less!