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Potholes Ahead: Expert Advice on Navigating the Road to Mainframe as-a-Service

As much as mainframes will be with us for years to come, the traditional approach for mainframe operations can now be provided in an as-a-Service financial model that can be very advantageous in the long-run. Mainframe as-a-Service (MFaaS) allows these systems to be consumed through a subscription, not through capital-intensive purchases of physical platforms, which is traditionally required of mainframes. This enables IT managers to make purchases through service level agreements (SLAs) using “consumption of MIPS or MSUs” and storage pricing models – paying for true consumption and ensuring usage through a flexible financial model.

Sound too good to be true? In some cases the answer is maybe. The road to a true consumption MFaaS is riddled with potential significant potholes. Several key areas must be addressed and understood with regards to how they will affect:

  1. The operations of mainframe applications
  2. Current software Enterprise License Agreements (ELAs)
  3. Federal compliancy requirements.

So what are the real risks and concerns associated with MFaaS? The primary purpose for any system is to support applications that provide services to other state agencies and/or citizens. It is important to understand the ramifications of placing a mainframe application hundreds of miles away from backend systems, web-based applications can be problematic with associated latency issues. Even the smallest micro-second latency could prove detrimental to how applications function. Mainframe operations rely on a multitude of system software and 3rd party products to run effectively. Each of these software products are usually wrapped with extended ELAs. A typical mainframe environment could have as many as 25 different software products with associated ELAs and different license termination dates. Moving a traditional mainframe to a MFaaS model can, and most likely will, create financial obligations to current software ELAs. Finally, Federal compliancy requirements are usually the biggest hurdle. Often, state-run mainframe operations process Federal Tax Information (FTI). Federal compliancy requirement IRS PUB 1075 has stringent stipulations surrounding migration of systems (to include MFaaS) and processing FTI data in the cloud. State CIOs need to fully understand these requirements before submitting RFPs for MFaaS. Not meeting the IRS PUB 1075 audit could potentially have an adverse impact on Federal funding. Asking for forgiveness later is a risky approach – especially with mission-critical applications that provide services to citizens.

MFaaS is a strategic direction that can provide the necessary relief to states facing aging mainframe platforms. Before moving toward MFaaS, it’s imperative to have a complete understanding of mainframe operations, including application limitations and status of software ELAs and Federal compliance requirements. There are several options when planning such a radical move and a single “one size fits all” is not usually realistic. With the right plan, partner and approach this can be a successful journey that provides significant benefits.

With our years of expertise and our formidable program management team, ViON can help you plan your journey to MFaaS and avoid the potholes. For more information about ViON’s MFaaS offering, visit vion.com/cloud/mfaas.

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