back to article Bank tech boss: Where we're going, we don't need mainframes

Dutch finance giant ING is moving away from mainframes as “aggressively” as it can, rejecting vendors’ hopes that a little sprinkling of Agile dust will give the venerable platform a new lease of life. Speaking at the DevOps Enterprise Summit in London on Thursday, Ron van Kemenade, CIO ING Bank, detailed the bank’s …

Roo
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Windows

"This was not because “a mainframe in itself is a bad technology. It’s maybe one of the most virtualised environments ever invented, even before the whole hypervisor was there.”"

So he hasn't read the history books and is currently repeating history. The new money for old rope game never grows old.

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FAIL

Utter drivel

Firstly I have no idea what Mainframes "cant do real time" even means. They were the only way of doing real time at scale for years.

Secondly DevOps and Agile are methodologies and philosphies - yes there are some great toolsets as enablers but you could knock together a continuous integration framework for JCL if you really wanted.

And lets not get into how long Linux has been deployable on a mainframe.

Someone let the PHB talk to the press with out a minder. The whole article was semi-intelligible bullshit bingo.

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Re: Utter drivel

Newcastle University was running the Michigan Terminal System on an IBM 360/67 doing time-sharing for ever so many students and staff in 1972, and probably a good deal earlier.

Still - what good is history and facts to a "bank tech boss"?

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Re: Utter drivel

Beat me to it about Linux being able to run on mainframes for ages - which instantly made me wonder about the quality of the whole article.

Shame only one upvote possible.

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Re: Utter drivel

Ah.. I remember the old MTS system at Newcastle. They were still running it there in 1992.

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Re: Utter drivel

Linux can run on mainframes of course, but one problem is poor support for applications only available as binary distributions. For obvious reasons a lot of vendors only want to support a limited range of distributions, let alone processor architectures.

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Re: Utter drivel

As a long time reader of TheReg, and being a bit of a BOFH, I never had the urge to reply to an article. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that "my Bank Tech Boss" actually got interviewed by TheReg. When reading the article I was a bit surprised by the actual quotes, which miss a bit of context. In my role as Chief Architect Infrastructure for ING I have an overview what happens in the datacenters and also what is happening in the application space.

First of all my "Bank Tech Boss" is a bit of a nerd. Within ING we like nerds, content driven skilled engineers. And believe it or not, Ron can write his own Java code and if we ever get to it he would be willing and able to learn to write a piece of cobol to run on the mainframe. But that's not the point. The reference to the mainframe in a real time environment needs some context. Traditionally banks, and also ING, have invested heavily in a variety of tools, technologies and platforms. The mainframe has been around for a very long time. Our mainframe environment is heavily optimized and we get great performance out of the platform. But it is all application and business logic which has it's foundation in a batch driven environment. Traditionally the whole payments area was based on batch processes. This was fine for the customer 10 years ago, and even great for banks to have nightly settlements. But those millions lines of code are all based on the principle of batch processing. Actually amazingly optimized to run those every growing volumes. In this day and age a lot of customers expect realtime updates, immediate processing and are refreshing their payment statements more often than their Facebook feed. And in all fairness the code from 10 years ago is structurally not able to be adopted to be fully realtime. The mainframe platform by itself obviously could support such processes, but actually it would require to rewrite an awful lot of code to accomplish that.

When we started the journey to become a true realtime bank, it was also a great opportunity to move to a more common hardware platform. Ofcourse Linux could run on a mainframe, and it would perform and it would scale. But with this challenge to rethink our application architecture we also had a great opportunity to not just adopt a common platform, but also introduce many other new technologies (for example in the NoSQL space).

That does not mean that we completely ignore the mainframe, it is still supporting a lot of (business) processes. Hence we also introduced the CD/CI approach for the mainframe teams. So in this batch orientated environment we also have deployment pipelines, integration frameworks and are getting benefits for those DevOps teams. Because the end-to-end process must fit in that some operation model; it's not just fancy cool updates in the mobile apps. It is also adopting our backend systems with new features and capabilities.

The quote in the article could have been "we want to be a realtime bank and we did rethink all of our internal processing and external interfaces. This resulted in a lot of changes on my platforms. This could be done on any hardware platform or many different hardware platforms, but we choose to standardize on commodity hardware.

Although not represented in the article, the PHB actually knows all of this but probably just not expressed in the interview.

And now I am back to my PDP11, for the fun of it ;-)

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Re: Utter drivel

personal PDP11? very cool, DEC donated a PDP11 to my school so it was first computer i used, had to boot from a line printer to get the VT52 terminal to work, a cabinet full of documentation in binders.

Then Uni had a VAX 11/750, loved exploring that thing, summer months lost to Zork, great.

if i ever get to name a house i think i'll call it SYS$

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Re: Utter drivel

Drivel would be an improvement. I would not recommend ING to anyone since their management is unusually clueless.

Mainframes are like COBOL, still very useful for many situations. Also, replacing the mainframe applications is not a trivial task and is likely to be quite risky.

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What could possibly go wrong?

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Hrrr .. hrrr .. go wrong, go wrong, go wrong ..

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About time...

The only problem, of course, the (lack of) timescale and whether the people doing the "agile" etc buzzwordy thingies actually have a clue as well.

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With something as sensitive and crucial as a bank"s very core - do you really want bleeding edge? Tried & trusted has it's merits.

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ST
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Devil

but but but but but ...

... does Mainframe have DevOps??????

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Thank goodness for small mercies.

It's ING, I don't have an account there and if it's Dutch, as a UK taxpayer I presumably don't have to bail it out - and certainly not after Brexit.

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Headmaster

Re: Thank goodness for small mercies.

Its in the Eurozone - you didn't have to bail it out at any point before Brexit.

The only thing the UK authorities would be on the hook for is any problems in a UK based subsidiary (e.g. the former ING Direct - now part of Barclays) if it was operating under a British banking license as those retail deposits would be covered by the FSCS (itself funded by a levy on all savings institutions rather than from general taxation). That said covering losses at a relatively "safe" retail savings subsidiary is a bit different to stumping up for the whole damned party as we had to with RBS (and to an extent Lloyds/HBOS).

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This post has been deleted by its author

Upgrade

So why they've not asked mainframe hardware vendor to add special DevOps upgrade?

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Re: Upgrade

To 'IOS6 user's point: some years ago when we did ask a couple of vendors for the DevOps upgrade pack. And all we got was just another tool :-) In the meantime at ING we made a complete organisational shift, beefed up the skillsets, made a couple of mistakes, learned an awfull lot and are still learning and adopting to balance between agility vs predictability, innovation vs standardisation and proven tech vs upcoming tech.

Still looking for that single DevOps upgrade pack which is actually productised, viable and minimum...

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Anonymous Coward

Drop the mainframe, embrace Maven

Yeah! It's the DevOps way. I blame Brexit.

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Mushroom

Real Time - I don't think it means what you think it means

Was working on real r/t mainframes over 40 years ago. Wasn't new back then and isn't new now. Can be scaled to whatever size you want/need and handle the gazillions of transactions with very fast response times (I worked on some assembler subroutines with the manufacturer computer instruction times at my hand to enhance speed; and that's a LONG time ago).

I don't think this was thought through very well, but it fits with the "out with the antiques (mainframe and us old farts) and in with the shiney-shiney"

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Anonymous Coward

Good luck

A lack of flexibility in the old batch systems will be replaced by a lack of predictability in the new interactive systems. Real-time banking without race conditions is incredibly difficult and beyond the skills of typical Software Engineers and Project Managers. Even if you do have an amazing team, they might be using 3rd party software written by hundreds of weekend patch submitters.

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I'm actually confused as to why banks endlessly prattle on about their IT systems. They're just processing high volumes of relatively simple transactions. They're not even in the same planet, let alone ballpark as Google or any of the big internet companies that deal with everything from AI searches to hosting, processing and serving vast amounts of data.

I see bank networks as similar to old switching systems in a telco. They need to so a simple, high volume, repetitive job very reliable.

They so some financial modelling, some fairly unsophisticated online services and that's about it.

I have concerns about banks jumping into buzz words and technology platforms that aren't at all relevant to them.

Maybe I'm just biased having been a customer of RBS Ulster Bank during their mulitweek It collapse a few years ago...

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No tweets about mainframes

"See, we don't understand portability, so we're just going to go with what it says on the side of the box. And because we've been buying Windows and Linux kit, the sides of the boxes say Windows and Linux," Ron van Kemenade said. "They don't say Mainframe."

He followed up by saying mainframes aren't in the mainstream, even though "main" is right in the name. "They're not keeping up with buzzwords. When was the last time you read a tweet or a Facebook post about mainframes? We need computers that are buzzword compliant. We need computers that are part of the zeitgeist, not relics of another time. Plus, these old mainframes have had so few problems, we just know that something is going to go wrong in a big way soon. It has to. That's how computers work."

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Meh

broken on the wheel of time, again

wheels on bus go round and round, round and "oh, fell off"

And in 5 years time, despite IBM selling off mainframe hardware to some-one (hello Fujitsu), mainframe sales will start growing. Heard it all before, 20+ years ago when unix boxes were all the rage. Then it was Windows everywhere. Now who knows. Linux/BSD derivatives, whatever. In 5 years, Linux on ARM feeding COBOL/CICS on mainframes ? probably. After that I suspect smoke signals, carrier pigeons and runners.

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Anonymous Coward

Where we're going, we don't need mainframes

Bust.

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ING promised they would improve in 2013

After a string of problems with internet banking in 2013, ING promised to do something to improve the situation:

http://www.nu.nl/tech/3719698/ing-belooft-verbetering-fors-aantal-storingen.html

Is this (getting rid of their mainframes) how they intend to do that?

List of problems that made the news back then:

http://www.nu.nl/tag/Storingen%20ING

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Anonymous Coward

OK, so now they are going to replace 1 mainframe with how many Linux/Windows boxes?

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how many Linux/Windows boxes?

I seem to recall that, a few years back, it was 500 high speed Unix Servers with One Mainframe box.

Remember that IBM commercial where the guy is standing in that Huge empty white room tearing out his hair and lamenting "They Stole all our servers!"?

Then another guy walks up to him and says: "No they didn't. We replaced them all with that." and points to a single Mainframe box about the size of a refrigerator down at the other end of the room.

Because the Electric bill alone was almost $100,000 per year less.

And the 500 high speed Unix Servers cost at least 5 times More than that Mainframe, especially after you added in the cost of all the Cables, racks and floor space they needed.

Not to mention the army of techs who got to figure out "Which One is crashing Now?"

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Agile bank account

Tell Ron van Kemenade that his bank account has been migrated to the new agile environment. Then when he asks why his balance isn't correct tell him "Don't worry about that. It's agile. We'll fix it in an update soon."

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There is another option!

While I agree with most of the sentiment contained in the article I take partial issue with the comments;

“in this DevOps transformation with continuous delivery you simply see that all kinds of new tooling is created for Linux, it’s created for Windows - but why would a developer today for generic tooling bother to make it adaptable for a mainframe?” and "While the younger DevOps tool vendors would not even dream of developing for the mainframe"

While this is widely the case, I believe companies such as Clarive (clarive.com) can automate the continuous development process across Mainframe/waterfall environments and the newer DevOps environments, from a younger DevOps tool vendor.

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Actually created an account here to post my reply :)

I hope, like I read in some comments, that the quotes by Ron are somewhat 'out of context' indeed. It's a sad day when a CIO of a multinational enterprise really thinks that "....Mainframes are not realtime in their connectivity...."

But then I must say I am very curious as to what the context precisely is. If referring to the 'Application Landscape', sure. If you're batch oriented it's a far stretch from being 'realtime'. This however has nothing to do with the underlying operating system nor it's hardware platform but everything with the aforementioned application landscape.

Wanting to make your (batch-oriented) business processes more realtime without shifting it to a transactional setup is like keep wanting to buy a faster horse....eventually you will hit that brick wall.

Mediocre management will blame it on the horse. Visionaries will buy a car...

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Anonymous Coward

ING moving away aggressively from mainframes is a first.

Is it maybe because the previous attempts failed?

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