Mainframe Servers

Startup advances on plan to crack IBM's mainframe stronghold

Lz Labs is keen to stress it is not a typical startup. It is not young, funky and fun with a dog in the office, I’m told. Instead, the average age is about 60 – many people have been shipped out of retirement from across the globe. And with a large undisclosed sum of anonymous backer money it is hell-bent on solving the decades old global issue of legacy mainframe migration.

Founded in 2011, yesterday Lz Labs announced ‘Gotthard’ – the first product release in its “software defined mainframe” solution. At an event hosted at Microsoft’s Zurich offices, it gathered together partner representatives from Red Hat and Microsoft, Dale Vecchio from Gartner, along with potential new clients, to showcase its offering  

Mainframes – which in the world of modern IT systems seem exceptionally archaic – still run 70% of the world’s financial transactions, are used in 5,000 of the world’s largest organisations and one analyst recently suggested still equate to around a fifth of IBM’s pre-tax profits. Yet despite being a post-war technology which miserably limps behind modern notions of business agility they still work and are well-known for their reliability.

Mark Cresswell, CEO, believes the wider problems around mainframe use are coming to a head. The “number one issue is skills”, he says. All the baby boomers who have been operating these machines for years are about to retire and younger people simply aren’t interested. The second factor is that the waning performance and subsequently increasing price of mainframes are likely to make them far less viable over the coming years. And thirdly “there is an existential threat from born in the web companies”.

Yet the problem of migrating from mainframe is not an easy one to solve. There are three ways to approach this, says Vecchio from Gartner, who has been nearly 40 years in the space. The first of these is package migration, the second is to take the old code and translate it into java and the third is lift and shift, as initially pioneered by Micro Focus. All have their issues but what Lz Labs offers is a new approach to third option.

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