BPER Banca, one of Italy’s largest banks, has migrated about 30 services from its mainframes to a Linux environment with tools from LzLabs and technical and business support services from CWS. The applications chosen for the first phase of migration control BPER’s front end customer portals, used to manage its retail banking account access.

Omar Campana, Group CIO at the bank, said the bank is in the middle of a journey to improve, rethink and digitalize its technical processes. His department is under pressure from internal users to digitalize existing processes and also be able to adopt new services and products from fintechs. The company goal is to build a modern IT environment for enterprise applications, through which it can reduce its time to market by testing more rapidly and more extensively, and by deploying new features faster.

“We need to improve the time to market in terms of how many products and services we can optimize or create,” Campana said.

The bank has created a partnership with Amazon, connecting its marketplace to the bank’s internet banking and also setting up Amazon lockers at many of its branches so people can pick up their orders.

But when it come to innovation and time to market in its core banking system, BPER ran up against the limits of Cobol.

“In 2019 Cobol had its 60th birthday,” said Campana. “More than 21 billion lines of code written in Cobol are managing 90% of financial transactions over the world, and every year 2 million new lines of code in Cobol are created. Thinking that legacy systems would disappear, is not realistic.”

Mainframes have their value, he added, especially in reliability and resilience. The bank is using LzSDM (Software Defined Mainframe) to meet the distributed demands of its customer-facing applications through a virtual machine in sync with two mainframe sites during migration. The bank needed an innovative way to move to the Linux environment.

“We will need to manage both sides of the technology — the legacy systems side and also the distributed side. The speed and the rapid weight of change that we can have into the distributed system is not matching the level of speed that we can achieve into the legacy side.”

Applications will run within virtual machines on x86 servers in an integrated, open environment. In an increasingly competitive banking market, BPER’s incremental migration will drive greater agility in its business processes, most notably by enabling continuous development and testing of software updates for a number of banking products, the bank said in its announcement The bank accesses its DB2 database through SQL. Data remains on BPER’s mainframe during this phase of migration, ensuring graceful, incremental rehosting of transactional services and data to a modern environment.

The LzDSM does not require recompilation of applications or data modifications so the same application software could be deployed on LzSDM and the mainframe during migration — the bank’s application portfolio was enhanced at about 500 changes per day during the introduction of LzSDM. Using LzLabs’ unique incremental migration approach, the BPER team could focus on migrating services and applications that require modernization to a Linux operating environment and container technology, in a phased process.

“We chose LzSDM as it is the only platform that could support the incremental migration of our applications to a modern platform, while meeting our requirements for testing, controlling IT costs and, ultimately, accelerating time to market in our application portfolio,” said Campana. “Our core banking applications can now be gradually moved to a platform for innovation that will better serve the future needs of our business.”

The bank’s goal for the future is to continue off loading applications from the mainframe to Linux while making sure to maintain the resilience of the mainframe platform. The company’s goal, by the end of 2021 is to migrate substantial workload to LzSDM, plus a continuous flow of additional services that can be migrated over time.