IBM plans to offer its experimental cloud-based mainframe application development and testing platform as a commercial service.
Called Wazi as-a-Service (Wazi aaS), it provides z/OS-based virtual server instances using IBM Cloud’s logically isolated virtual private cloud infrastructure.
IBM says access to the service can be arranged in as little as six minutes and it runs up to 15 times faster than comparable x86 development and test alternatives in its own cloud data centers.
Wazi aaS is expected to be generally available in the second half of 2022.
The announcement is linked to the company’s broader mainframe modernization efforts which saw the launch of a dedicated online hub in late 2021.
“IBM recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to modernization,” said Tarun Chopra, vice president, IBM Z Hybrid Cloud. “By leveraging both IBM Z and IBM Cloud, clients can benefit from a hybrid cloud approach that enables them to capitalize on each platform’s innovations, technical advancements, security, and resiliency. form.”
Young at heart
Mainframes are commonplace in the banking, insurance, and retail industries, thanks to their ability to efficiently process huge volumes of transactions and their reputation for security and availability.
In a 2021 BMC survey of more than 1,300 mainframe executives and technicians, 92% of respondents said they view the mainframe as a platform for long-term growth and new workloads.
But to run these workloads, the mainframe has to change its ways. For most of its history, the architecture has been very rigid – which makes sense, when it needs to be able to run code written over 50 years ago.
Mainframe evolution is well underway; in recent years, these machines have embraced Linux, containerized workloads built with popular tools like Docker and RedHat’s OpenShift, and learned to interact with public cloud resources.
The latest step in IBM’s cloud-enabled strategy will allow developers to write code for mainframes and test it in a convenient, paid environment, without having to waste any of the mainframe’s valuable physical resources.
Virtual server instances are created with Wazi Image Builder and can be pre-installed with popular software or fully customized to each organization’s needs.
Wazi aaS presents a much more acceptable alternative to IBM Z Development and Test Environment (ZD&T), which allows users to run mainframe applications on PCs and x86 servers – including public cloud servers from AWS and Microsoft – but comes with a lengthy disclaimer that states the software “may not be used for production workloads of any kind, nor for robust development workloads, production module builds, pre-production testing, stress testing or performance testing”.
To understand how revolutionary Wazi as-a-Service is, we can highlight the fact that a single Personal Edition license for ZD&T costs more than $5,000.
“Going forward, IBM intends to extend the capabilities of IBM Wazi as a Service to provide a comprehensive, modern cloud-native development experience for IBM z/OS that is consistent and familiar to all developers,” the company said in its management statement.
IBM’s attempts to embrace the concept of mainframe modernization come at a time when it faces increasing competition from public cloud providers, for whom “mainframe modernization” means replacing traditional mainframe hardware with virtual machines.