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BT taps Kyndryl to migrate mainframe apps to the cloud

Applications to do with legacy copper and consumer broadband 'cannot be shut down'

BT is has contracted infrastructure services provider Kyndryl to help migrate some of its legacy mainframe applications to the cloud.

The former state-owned telecoms biz said the project will move critical legacy apps that "cannot be shut down in the short term" to the cloud. These are identified as ones servicing its legacy copper business and consumer broadband products, and migrating them will allow BT to operate its copper broadband infrastructure "in a modern way."

According to BT, it expects to see the project produce savings from reduced maintenance, hosting and energy costs plus increased resilience – the latter of which it says be delivered via AIOps, in theory automatically healing services if problems develop. BT anticipates the savings will be worth more than £17 million a year by 2026.

This is a tiny fraction of the £3 billion in cuts BT is looking to make by the end of 2025.

"We like thinking out of the box to solve complex problems – like how to move off mainframes given the prohibitive increase in legacy infrastructure cost – without rewriting decades-old applications," said BT Group's Chief Digital and Innovation Officer, Harmeen Mehta.

Mehta, a former HSBC exec whom BT poached from Indian telco Bharti Airtel in 2021 to head up its newly formed Digital Unit, claimed the agreement with Kyndryl had enabled it to turn legacy mainframe code into modern digital apps and run them at a fraction of the cost.

Kyndryl, formerly the greater part of IBM's Global Technology Services division before it was spun off in 2021, is already in charge of BT Group's mainframe estate. As part of the project, BT said some applications will be retired to get to fewer than 500 strategic systems by 2027, refactored or else rehosted by being repackaged to operate in a cloud environment.

BT said that in moving to the cloud, the applications will become more "digital" (stop us if this is getting too technical) with API and microservices features developed to help with broader integration across BT Group systems as well as greater automation.

Migration to the cloud means that applications will be linked into BT Group's service management platform, which is, we're told, how they will benefit from its AIOps self-healing capabilities. Other services, BT said, will have easier access to data and capabilities from the mainframe applications. This, it's hoped, will improve BT's ability to support its customers with the migration to modern fiber services as legacy copper networks are retired in the coming years.

"Migrating from mainframes to cloud extends the usefulness and lifespan of these applications in a modern, microservices-led, cloud-centric way and helps unlock intelligent data insights," said Kyndryl's Global Practice Leader for Core Enterprise & zCloud, Petra Goude.

Modernizing mainframe applications would seem to be a service in demand, judging by the number of companies getting into it. Last year, Google unveiled a service to help "eliminate the most common risks" with migrating mainframe workloads to the cloud, while AWS launched its own Mainframe Modernization initiative in June.

Kyndryl also popped up last year to help Microsoft enable data pipelines between mainframe systems (including Kyndryl's zCloud platform) and Microsoft's Azure cloud, while IBM quietly launched a cloud-hosted mainframe service for development purposes.

IBM also kicked off a lawsuit against Micro Focus, an enterprise software company that develops a platform capable of running z/OS applications on standard server hardware, alleging that it copied the CICS mainframe service as part of its own services. ®

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