As cloud computing continues to evolve and mature, why businesses deploy processes and workloads in the cloud is just as vital to understand as when they adopt cloud solutions or which platforms they choose. It is also important to note that while public cloud providers’ portfolios share numerous similarities, some also offer solutions and services which are essentially unique.
A good example of that point is IBM Cloud’s Wazi as-a-Service (aaS) which provides enterprises on-demand access to zEnterprise mainframe development and testing capabilities. Why this is important and how one IBM customer, Eurobank, is using and has benefitted from Wazi aaS was the subject of a recent analyst briefing that is worth considering in detail.
How IBM Wazi aaS works
IBM designed Wazi aaS for zEnterprise customers that hope to enhance development and testing for mission critical and other enterprise applications. Organizations that rely on conventional (x86-based) development environments often come to prefer more agile solutions that can shorten wait times, thus speeding application delivery and release cycles.
How does Wazi aaS address these issues? By providing developers and other software professionals self-serve access to zEnterprise systems running in IBM Cloud. According to IBM, users can typically spin up a built-for-a-purpose z/OS dev and test virtual server (VM) in six minutes or less. They can also access pre-installed stock images or extract components from on-prem systems or deploy a custom image onto the virtual server using IBM Wazi Image Builder.
Wazi aaS runs in IBM Cloud’s Virtual Private Cloud environment, a logically isolated, highly secure private space that is designed to eliminate the wait times that are often a part of accessing on-premises zEnterprise resources. Isolated environments — combined with IBM DevSecOps testing tools — enable developers to begin testing at earlier stages of development. Customers can also implement continuous testing, bringing real-time feedback into the development lifecycle.
How does Wazi aaS on IBM Cloud compare to conventional solutions? Internal testing at IBM (comparing an IBM Cloud z/OS Virtual Server Instance (VSI) to an IBM Cloud x86 VSI) found that the IBM Cloud z/OS Virtual Server supported about 15x faster compilation of Java applications, about 12x faster compilation of C applications and about 8x faster batch compilations of COBOL/FORTRAN applications. The company also intends to expand on these capabilities to provide a DevSecOps CI/CD (Continuous Integration and Continuous deployment) experience natively on IBM Cloud, and began this effort by providing a toolchain template which can be used to initiate projects.
Those results are worth the attention of organizations hoping to achieve faster, more agile DevOps processes.
The Eurobank use case
During the analyst briefing, Harry Mavrakis, Chief Enterprise Architect at Eurobank detailed how his team is employing and benefitting from Wazi aaS. As background, the Eurobank Group is a financial organization headquartered in Athens, Greece with presence in Greece, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Serbia, Bulgaria and UK (London). In June 2022, Eurobank Group reported €80.2 billion ($82.8B) in total assets.
Like hundreds of other financial institutions, Eurobank considers IBM zEnterprise systems to be the cornerstone of its enterprise architecture. Mavrakis described the company’s core banking application as both customer-centric and modular. Built on COBOL and IBM Db2, the application supports a wide variety of business capabilities and process but is also in a continuous state of evolution to support new offerings. In addition, the architecture is interconnected with Eurobank’s Omni channel platform through IBM’s CTG (CICS Transaction Gateway) or IBM Db2 stored procedures.
Annually, Eurobank invests about 100 FTE (full time equivalent) staff members in mainframe projects. Mavrakis explained that the company is utilizing Wazi aaS to introduce development, test and promotion processes in order to improve time to market. Eurobank is also actively exploring on demand provisioning of customized development and test environments that it believes will add agility and flexibility to its mainframe operations.
Mavrakis said that the most promising use cases for Wazi aaS are those that help Eurobank improve time to market and the ones that facilitate parallel development and test, thus bypassing on premise system limitations. But he noted that Wazi aaS is also a valuable resource for other processes, such as infrastructure testing: “We can use the platform to test upgrades to new system software, or to perform proof of concepts of a system or an application or software in a contained environment without any risk for the monitoring system.”
Finally, Mavrakis pointed out the value of Wazi aaS for improving developer agility and skills. “Not only can developers use these virtual environments to practice commonplace tasks, but they can also experiment or pursue operations that they would never be allowed to execute, even in traditional development environments.”
What were my final takeaways from this briefing? First and foremost, that solutions like IBM’s Wazi aaS can measurably extend the value of public cloud both in general and for specific industries and use cases. The Eurobank examples detailed by Harry Mavrakis touched on both of these points.
However, the briefing also demonstrated how IBM is utilizing its experience and homegrown technologies to offer unique services and solutions via IBM Cloud. Many in the tech industry dismiss mainframe computing as somehow passe. However, for thousands of banks and hundreds of millions of their customers, IBM zSystems provide the foundation for delivering secure, reliable, readily available services and developing new, evolutionary solutions.
As Harry Mavrakis noted, “At Eurobank, the IBM mainframe is not a static or monolithic system. It’s a live system.” Overall, IBM Wazi aaS on IBM Cloud should contribute significantly to the continuing vitality of zEnterprise solutions and the success of IBM’s enterprise customers.
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