At the CeBIT computer fair in March, the Swiss start-up LzLabs caused a stir. They promised to migrate somewhat outdated COBOL applications to a software-defined mainframe and run them there. On Tuesday in Wallisellen, the company demonstrated its technology.
LzLabs 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.
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.”
“More than 5,000 of the world’s largest companies are reliant on mainframes for online and batch COBOL applications. These companies face a perfect storm of high costs, a shrinking pool of expertise to run the systems, and restrictions on integration and innovation,” explains Mark Creswell, CEO of LzLabs. “Mainframe users have waited 30 years for a way to easily transition legacy applications to modern systems. To make such a transition, a managed container is required that faithfully recreates the behaviour of the originating legacy hardware mainframe. With this first release of LzLabs’ Software Defined Mainframe, we are providing that environment.”
This article highlights the LzLabs announcement about the availability of Gotthard announced today. Users are now able to use your mainframe applications and data on modern systems.
Mainframes are more powerful, more resilient, and much more expensive than traditional servers, making them suitable for specific use cases in industries like retail or finance. Deployed by some of the world’s largest companies, they are estimated to run 70 percent of all commercial transactions. However, the skills needed to manage mainframes are slowly disappearing, and the costs of the hardware remain prohibitively high.
The launch version of the platform, codenamed Gotthard, enables IT administrators to run traditional mainframe workloads on commodity servers and Linux, located either on-premises or in the cloud. It requires no changes to the original code, which was likely written in COBOL or PL/1. LzLabs came out of stealth at CeBIT 2016 in March, and has already secured partnerships with Red Hat and Microsoft, with the latter offering Gotthard as part of the Azure public cloud.