September 4, 2019 By Helen Yu 4 min read

From time to time, we invite industry thought leaders to share their opinions and insights on current technology trends to the IBM Systems IT Infrastructure blog. The opinions in these posts are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of IBM.

The relationship between mainframe’s “big iron” and the cloud’s unencumbered flexibility is usually cast antagonistically, as an either-or proposition: “Mainframe or Cloud?” asked Diginomica last year, in an article that offered a typically polarizing choice.

But the following headlines tell a more accurate story of the new symbiotic relationship between mainframe and cloud computing:

“The Mainframe and the Cloud: Friends, not Enemies.”

“Mainframe Meet Cloud.”

The perceived conflict between mainframe and cloud has given way to showing the alliance– and nowhere is this more evident than in the hybrid or multicloud environment in which resides a combination of private and public clouds; on-premises and off-premises computing.

In the infrastructure of a hybrid cloud are links between one cloud managed by IT (typically the private cloud) and at least one cloud managed by a third party (typically the public cloud). Although the public and private segments of the hybrid cloud are connected, they remain distinct. Why? To allow hybrid clouds to offer the benefits of multiple deployment models at once.

The business benefits

The hybrid cloud makes a compelling case for businesses, which can use it to leverage the scalability and cost-effectiveness of the public cloud computing environment without exposing mission-critical applications and data to the vulnerabilities associated with the public cloud option.

It’s a “have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too” proposition.

Moreover, hybrid clouds create what is often the most efficient solution because different types of data can be moved onto whatever platform provides the most resilient,  efficient and secure environment.

What specific benefits can businesses reap from the hybrid cloud option? Here’s an example: A company that wants to use a SaaS application but is concerned about security risks can have a third party create a private cloud for the company inside its firewall.

Or a company that offers services tailored to different vertical markets can opt to use a public cloud to interact with its clients but keep its data in the secure environment of a private cloud.

Here’s another example of the power of the hybrid cloud option:

At a British multinational energy and services company, fragmented IT systems and outdated tools and processes mitigated against speed and agility in the meeting of customer demands–eroding its ability to compete as new technologies disrupted the utilities market.

After the company adopted a hybrid cloud environment, its IT service deployment time was cut from 12 weeks to one hour–enabling it to better support DevOps and introduce customer-facing services more quickly.

Control, privacy, resilience and reliability

Control and privacy are typically twin benefits you’ll hear from the testaments of hybrid cloud users. The multicloud model offers more control and security than other computing architectures in that everything can be secured within one environment; whereas other cloud setups rely on other environments beyond the user’s control.

Bottom line: Multicloud is a single, secure environment that enables companies to manage their businesses more controllably with more scalability and data protection–advantages available on today’s mainframe, IBM Z, which offers unparalleled data protection and control.  

Two more advantages: resilience and reliability. Built on open standards to integrate with anything the customer already has in place, the hybrid environment allows users the latitude to pick and choose which custom combinations of public, private, on premises and off premises work best for them.

In sum, the mix of on-premises, public cloud, and private cloud systems is the most pragmatic approach to cloud adoption because it enables organizations to make the best use of technologies optimized to meet their business objectives.

It’s little wonder that the hybrid cloud inspires comments like this one from CIO Dive, a respected source of news and insights into enterprise technology: “Hybrid cloud provides a fast lane to digital transformation.”

“IT leaders are excited about the potential of cloud to supercharge the speed of digital transformation,” says the publication. “It minimizes CAPEX and OPEX, reduces cycle times, and it’s scalable.”

And what of the increasingly popular cloud-native approach? (“Cloud-native” is an approach to building and running applications that exploit the advantages of the cloud computing delivery model. It’s about how applications are created and deployed, not where, and incorrectly implies that the apps live in the public cloud, as opposed to an on-premises data center.)

Acknowledging the appeal of the cloud-native approach, CIO Dive says this: “To support an innovative business model or completely reengineered process, it’s natural for organizations to consider a cloud-native approach. In the long term, cloud native may be the most effective and future-proof solution. That said, most established companies must also operate legacy applications and systems even as they adopt modern, digital technology – legacy systems which are often business-critical and must interact with newer systems. Enter the hybrid cloud approach.

And for good reason: Housing more of the world’s structured enterprise data than any other platform, mainframes continue to drive a significant portion of mission- critical workload for big business. To power enterprise transactions, they are used by 44 out of the top 50 banks, 10 out of the top 10 insurers, and 18 out of the top 25 retailers.[1]

So enter enterprise hybrid multicloud implementations, turning mainframes and the cloud from perceived foes into friends; what Casablanca’s Rick might have called the two pillars of a “beautiful friendship.”

Interested in learning more on where enterprises are in their journey to cloud? Find out in this IDC survey.


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