Fast forward to today. Several decades and upgrades later, mainframes have changed drastically; they are much smaller, more agile, and don’t weigh more than a heavily packed car.
But what hasn’t changed much is their worth in the computing world. Mainframes continue to remain the core computing platform—the workhorses—of some of the world’s largest organizations. In addition, mainframes also hold the ability to handle multiple terabytes of data in the blink of an eye. The numbers say it all. Around 92 of the world’s top 100 banks, 10 of the world’s top 10 insurers, and 71 percent of Fortune 500 companies swear by mainframes to perform their day-to-day business functions. Hence, it would not be a stretch to say that the mainframes are here to stay, albeit by successfully adapting to new use cases in the era of cloud computing!
Bringing together cloud innovation and legacy mainframe platforms, however, is not a cakewalk. Extracting the valuable mainframe data for more modern analytics capabilities and cloud initiatives is a daunting task for establishments, as the data is often locked in by legacy storage hardware and proprietary file formats. Besides, mainframe cold storage based on disks and tapes is typically rigid and requires skilled mainframe professionals to operate, making the data even more impenetrable.
Against this backdrop, a company that has been able to cut this ‘Gordian knot’ is NY-based information technology and services company, Model9. The company, with the help of its patented technology, unlocks mainframe data to any cloud platform, enabling companies with legacy mainframes to effectively leverage modern cloud technologies and economics at low cost, and in a very short timeframe.
A New Frontier in Mainframe Data Modernization
Model9, an AWS Advanced Technology Partner as well as an IBM Business Partner, is uniquely positioned to cater to the data management space. Gil Peleg, founder and CEO of Model9, explains that although there are many top-shelf cloud-based data storage and management solution providers like Dell EMC, Nutanix, NetApp, none of them offer solutions specifically for mainframe data. At the same time, even the major cloud players like AWS, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure, among others, do not have a specific offering around the mainframe market. “All they offer is a migration project; they can’t really enable cloud applications to use the data that is being generated by the mainframe in real time,” says Peleg. And that’s precisely where Model9 excells. “Our software, Cloud Data Manager for Mainframe, facilitates seamless integration of mainframe data with cloud-enabled storage and data management solutions,” Peleg says, explaining the company’s value proposition.
And while this might sound a bit complex, Model9 makes the process extremely simple. For instance, the initial configuration is done almost automatically. The solution comes with automated discovery capabilities that understand the client’s mainframe environment, allowing it to plug into their existing definition effortlessly. “So there’s neither a redefinition that needs to be done, nor an elaborate discussion where the client describes their existing mainframe environment to us.
This makes the entire process easy for clients, and they can implement the solution on their own,” said Peleg.
This juxtaposition of experienced people with younger engineering group has become our secret sauce in bringing cloud technologies to a conservative and risk-averse market such as the mainframe industry
More importantly, Model9’s Cloud Data Manager simplifies daily operations via an easy-to-use user interface that requires no object-storage knowledge or skills. “Keeping in mind the dearth of skilled mainframe professionals, we’ve built our solution in a way that doesn’t rely on deep mainframe skills. System administrators can leverage this solution and start gaining access to the cloud without breaking a sweat,” states Peleg.
When it comes to cost benefits, Model9 runs its software on the mainframe’s zIIP processors, which facilitates affordable data storage, backup, archive, and recovery functionalities. Thus, using Cloud Data Manager, companies can not only accelerate digital transformation but also dramatically cut mainframe data management costs.
The solution also enables easy conversion of mainframe data to cloud application-compatible file formats, such as XML files. This allows companies to utilize cutting-edge business analytics and AI solutions to gain insights from previously untapped data sets. “The mainframes hold all the business history for an organization that has been running for 30 or 40 years, when there were no analytics and BI solutions available. With our solution, all that rich data suddenly becomes accessible to businesses to glean crucial insights from. That’s how we enable mainframe customers to benefit from innovation and technology. Today, the best analytics and big data tools are in the cloud; we unlock your data and move it over, so you can use them with your mainframe data, adds Peleg.”.
Leading the Charge for Data-Led Digitalization
Today, Model9 is more than just a mainframe data storage solution provider; it has advanced into a robust data platform that has delivered a significant evolution of the mainframe industry.
To that end, the company has partnered with Cohesity, a privately-held IT company, to offer a joint data management solution. The joint Cohesity Data Platform and Model9 solution eliminates the need for legacy mainframe storage systems and offers enterprise users a unified data management platform. It not only helps enterprises manage organizational data operations across locations but also opens up the data to be leveraged in various BI and analytics applications.
Likewise, Model9 has also partnered with MinIO, an Amazon S3 compatible server-side software storage stack, to offer powerful, cloud-based object storage capabilities for the mainframe environment. The company successfully turns MinIO’s high-performance, low-cost object storage into a mainframe-ready, cloud-based storage solution that helps modernize operations and allows companies to eliminate outdated, costly tape and virtual tape library (VTL) systems.
These innovations are garnering even more accolades today amid the global pandemic. “Like any other industry, the mainframe industry—which is notoriously known for its proprietary technologies and siloed data storage— is also seeing a vertical acceleration in cloud adoption,” states Peleg.
A Winning Company Culture that Breeds Success
What truly complements Model9’s breakthrough innovation is its remarkable mix of employees—bringing a unique combination of two different sets of expertise and skills. On the one hand, some of the employees have decades of mainframe domain expertise, and on the other, the company boasts a solid team of professionals with adeptness in the cloud and modern technologies.
"The company, with the help of its patented technology, unlocks mainframe data to any cloud platform, enabling companies with legacy mainframes to effectively leverage modern cloud technologies and economics at low cost, and in a very short timeframe"
Adjacently, the company also has an interesting amalgamation of employees from different age groups. “Our mainframe professionals are typically very young. We all started around the age of 18, in the IDF’s computer center—which makes us a young group of people with about 20 years of experience in mainframe programming,” explains Peleg. Coupled with that, more than 40 percent of Model9’s employees are over 50 (not very common in typical startup companies ) .Th e senior employees bring deep experience and domain expertise to the company’s startup mindset. “This juxtaposition of experienced people with a younger engineering group has become our secret sauce in bringing cloud technologies to a conservative and risk-averse market,” asserts Peleg.
Basking in the glory of such a diversified workforce, the company has scripted several success stories.
In one instance, Model9 helped a bank integrate its mainframes with cloud technology. “The bank’s challenge was that they had an aging IBM tape storage solution, as well as a legacy backup and archival IBM software solution on their mainframe,” shares Peleg. Not only were those solutions expensive to manage, but as the skills required to handle those solutions were becoming increasingly difficult to find, the client wanted to upgrade and integrate data management and data protection on a single platform. They chose Cohesity for this, but their offering in itself didn’t cater to mainframes. So, bank management decided to use the joint Model9/Cohesity solution to bring all the mainframe data together on the cloud, while also providing the backup, recovery, disaster recovery, and analytics services for the mainframe data over Cohesity. This enabled the bank to completely eliminate their IBM tape silos and IBM backup and tape management software. They also got resource consumption benefits on the mainframe side.
Illuminating the Path for Liberating Mainframe Data on Cloud
Penning hundreds of similar success stories on its growth path, Model9 is laser-focused on removing the barriers around mainframe and cloud innovations. Today, Model9 has become a go-to name in the industry, trusted by the world’s leading financial institutions, transportation companies, and government agencies. “As more organizations are readily adopting the cloud with a focus on democratizing data and making it available to cloud applications, we are perfectly poised to address their needs,” mentions Peleg. The company’s roadmap is already aligned with changing market trends, and now its goal is to expand its capabilities further to support additional cloud platforms and data services, as well as build new mainframe platforms from the ground up.
In a nutshell, the future of the mainframe industry is bright, and Model9 is poised to stay at the helm of it.