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IBM and AWS Partner to Drive Mainframe Modernization
by Steven Dickens | December 6, 2022

The News:  AWS re:Invent last week brought a flurry of announcements across the full spectrum of the hybrid multi-cloud landscape. Not to be outdone with the numerous announcements by a plethora of vendors, IBM announced a significant partnership with AWS focused on bringing its software portfolio to the hyperscaler’s IaaS platform.  For more details, you can read the full Press Release here.

IBM and AWS Partner to Drive Mainframe Modernization

Analyst Take: Under the stewardship of Ginni Rometty, the former CEO and Chairman of IBM, AWS was a mortal enemy of IBM’s. How times have changed. The announcement that IBM plans to partner with one-time fierce competitor AWS is a seminal moment in the evolution of IBM’s strategy toward hybrid multi-cloud.

As public cloud gained traction, IBM positioned itself as a provider of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and acquired SoftLayer, who was at the time a market leader, for a reported $2 billion, intended to bolster the company’s public cloud offerings. Fast forward to 2022, and IBM’s strategy and focus is firmly articulated as hybrid cloud and AI. The company still has an in-house public cloud offering, but the focus has shifted from chasing commodity IaaS workloads to targeting highly regulated industries with industry-specific cloud solutions that are based on a robust foundation of security, regulatory compliance, and governance.

New IBM SaaS offerings on AWS

As the landscape for hybrid multi-cloud becomes more evident, and Arvind Krishna, IBM CEO and Chairman matures in his tenure, IBM is doubling down on its dual strategy of being focused on AI and hybrid cloud. As IBM looks to carve out a position as being essential to its clients, the need to partner with industry-leading public cloud providers, such as AWS, is inevitable. Against this backdrop, IBM partnering with AWS makes perfect sense.

Earlier this year, the companies announced the availability of IBM Software products as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) on the AWS Marketplace, making IBM solutions easier to discover and consume for clients who are cloud-native on AWS.  The benefits of this partnership are apparent for both parties. AWS clients get to consume IBM software and draw down their cloud credits, establishing AWS in the supply chain as a ‘reseller’ of IBM software. And for IBM, the benefit is that its software is easier to discover, trial, deploy, consume, and purchase through the AWS marketplace.

Earlier this year, IBM launched a new initiative with AWS that facilitated the huge and long-standing IBM channel ecosystem to resell IBM Software available on the AWS Marketplace. This program brings huge go-to-market and force multiplication benefits to both organizations. At AWS re:Invent last week, IBM and AWS announced the next evolution of this collaboration. The first vector for the evolution of the program is to bring new software titles into scope, including Envizi ESG Suite, Planning Analytics with Watson, Content Services, and App Connect Enterprise running as services on AWS.

Additionally, IBM and AWS are expanding their GTM efforts by allowing Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) the capability for the first time to obtain IBM Software from the AWS Marketplace with the same benefits they have always received as IBM partners. They also plan to provide ISVs access to IBM’s recently-launched Embeddable AI products from the marketplace in the coming months as part of this collaboration.

Mainframe Application Modernization Support in AWS

Mainframe Modernization is a politically charged term in both the industry and within enterprises that run IBM’s mainframe technology on-premises today. While some vendors, including AWS, will say that the only viable path to mainframe modernization is a bulk refactor and re-platform to the public cloud, other vendors and GSIs are more balanced. IT Infrastructure services providers, such as Kyndryl and Ensono, are both being vocal about the need to be pragmatic and modernize mainframe applications while rationing the mainframe hardware, and while also exploring options for selective re-platforming where appropriate.

As part of this pragmatic approach to modernization, one vector is to expose DevOps tooling to developers on public cloud platforms.  Against this backdrop, IBM and AWS announced last week that the IBM Z and Cloud Modernization Stack is being brought to the AWS Marketplace to enable clients to modernize applications faster and at a lower cost; this builds on the announcements made in 2021 and further expanded upon 7 months ago.

Looking Ahead

During AWS re:Invent last week, I had the opportunity to spend time with Roger Premo, GM of Strategy and Corporate Development and Skyla Loomis, VP, IBM Z Software and both were excited about the opportunity that partnering with AWS brings to the mainframe-installed base. Both see access to an expanded base of developers as key to reshaping the narrative around the mainframe platform while also removing barriers, perceived or not, to DevOps teams deploying new innovative applications on the mainframe platform.

While I share Premo and Loomis’ enthusiasm for partnering with AWS, I also counseled both that AWS is positioning BOTH re-platforming and modernizing applications in place. It will certainly be interesting to see how AWS develops nuance and maturity in the advice that it provides to clients on what is the most viable and sensible option as these clients look to modernize applications that currently sit on the mainframe today.

Disclosure: Futurum Research is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of Futurum Research as a whole.

Other insights from Futurum Research:

Google Cloud Launches Service to Simplify Mainframe Modernization

IBM Launches IBM Z and Cloud Modernization Center in its Continued Focus on Mainframe Modernization

AWS Announces Mainframe Modernization Acceleration Program in Partnership with Micro Focus

Image Credit: Astadia

About the Author

Steven Dickens is Vice President of Growth and Business Development and Senior Analyst at Futurum Research. Operating at the crossroads of technology and disruption, Steven engages with the world’s largest technology brands exploring new operating models and how they drive innovation and competitive edge for the enterprise.  Read Full Bio.