Oracle And Accenture Have Cracked The Mainframe Cloudification Conundrum

April 14, 2022 | 5 minute read
Andrea Cesarini
Managing Director, Oracle Intelligent Platform Services, Europe
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Authors: Andrea Cesarini, Accenture Managing Director, Oracle Business Group Lead Europe & Fabio Spoletini, Oracle Senior Vice President & Managing Director South Europe and EMEA Large Deals

If you throw a rock somewhere in the recesses of a large bank, there’s a good chance you’ll hit a mainframe. While the cloud has started reducing the footprint of on-premises infrastructure in recent years, those hulking, cabinet-sized computers are still everywhere in the financial sector.

Many are hard to maintain, expensive to operate, difficult to upgrade, and they silo valuable data while constraining users to outdated development tools. They’re also powering most of the world’s mission-critical financial workloads.

Previously unrivaled stability, security, batch and transaction processing speeds kept mainframes a mainstay in banking, insurance, government and other highly regulated industries for more than half a century. And when data pulls happened intermittently, the costs associated with maintaining those machines could be rationalized.

But the world has changed a lot in recent years. Data has taken on new value — it’s now accessed almost constantly, both internally by employees and externally by customers and partners. The dollar and manpower costs of owning that legacy infrastructure are escalating with data transfer volumes.

Plenty of large banks are incorporating mainframes into their long-term IT strategies, and some workloads will stay on those machines for good. But many others would be far better off adopting modern cloud infrastructure that not only unlocks their valuable data, but also opens up advanced development capabilities that speed time to market while driving down costs and operational headaches.

Despite those clear benefits, core banking workloads remain stubborn cloud holdouts. The challenge is moving them.

Legacy mainframes are not only old and bespoke with patches, but many are running COBOL applications that modern programmers are hesitant to touch. We’ve seen ambitious attempts to abandon that infrastructure scrapped because of these obstacles, sinking years of investments, frustrating business leaders and creating tensions between them and IT teams.

Fortunately, the stars have finally aligned for mainframe cloudification: technological innovations, data trends, business imperatives, and new migration tools and methods are about to open the floodgates that have prevented these workloads from rushing into the cloud.

Even with these advances, you can’t fault a large enterprise for being apprehensive when considering the migration of the all-important systems and tightly controlled core processes that store the bulk of their critical business data. Whether you’re a top tier bank, an auto manufacturer or a giant public utility, the thought of replacing your mainframe can be paralyzing.

“To take this journey, banking customers need a trusted hand — an organization that understands enterprise, that has unmatched experience platforming mission-critical software systems, that knows the technology, the industry, the business processes, and the regional regulations,” says Jonathan Tikochinsky, Oracle’s EVP of Global Strategic Clients.

“That’s why we at Oracle are thrilled to see Accenture launching a business unit dedicated to transforming mainframe systems using Oracle Cloud Infrastructure,” Tikochinsky says.

Accenture’s new Mainframe Cloudification program takes a highly innovative approach to migrating legacy workloads and empowering those customers with the agility, cost-effectiveness and flexibility that so many other businesses have realized through digital transformation.

The key is a reliable and repeatable process Accenture developed using Micro Focus technology as a “wrapper” around COBOL code, enabling a lift-and-shift of those applications onto Oracle Cloud Infrastructure in around two years — a significant acceleration from the six to eight years typically contemplated for projects that attempt to rewrite legacy code and business processes, says Koenraad Schelfaut, Accenture’s Europe Lead for Cloud First.

“We’ve figured out how to decouple the infrastructure from the COBOL, which allows us to move these workloads safely, and do it fast. Now we’re blazing this trail with a dedicated team that’s equipped with advanced automation tools and methodologies” Schelfaut says.

Accenture has also established a center of excellence to consolidate and share the IP, assets and knowledge it has developed to drive successful mainframe migrations.

Other cloud vendors have talked a lot recently about introducing mainframe modernization programs. But Accenture and Oracle have actually done it at the highest level.

Last year, the team transformed operations at a major global bank, offloading heavily siloed applications written in COBOL onto Oracle Exadata Cloud@Customer machines running Oracle Database. The offloaded applications are running in parallel production and they are proving enhanced performance and service levels. After this first milestone, the automated migration process will then be repeated over several other application instances that holds the bank’s operations across the globe.

That customer, like so many other big banks, over the course of decades had introduced new capabilities, new services, and entirely new lines of business built on mainframes; they then invested heavily in keeping hundreds of thousands of lines of COBOL alive.

“Banking today is a data business, and our mainframe decoupling process enabled us to unlock their critical data in a short period of time. And if you succeed in moving from mainframe to cloud, you can use the savings to fund other initiatives, like the rewriting of legacy code down the road,” Schelfaut says.

The cost benefits of such transformations are hard for business leaders to ignore — between 40 to 60 percent reductions in TCO. With those savings come upticks in performance, and the ability to introduce modern DevOps tools that enable developers to adapt quickly to evolving customer demands.

Accenture now looks to replicate the success of that engagement for other companies in highly regulated industries that are still tethered to their rigid and expensive mainframes.

Business leaders are increasingly frustrated that most of their core workloads are still not cloud-enabled, even after major investments. They increasingly see those hulking cabinets as anchors, holding them back from realizing the benefits of modern infrastructure they’ve heard so much about.

“There are still real concerns on the IT side,” Schelfaut says of mainframe migrations. “But there’s also a tremendous desire to solve the remaining challenges from the business side so as to gain a scalable platform that supports fast-paced development initiatives. And with Oracle technology underpinning this program, we’re one of the first systems integrators out there that has shown we can do that.”

Learn more — Go beyond with Oracle Cloud and Autonomous

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Andrea Cesarini

Managing Director, Oracle Intelligent Platform Services, Europe

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