Some predictions for the new year, focused on mainframe modernization, data intelligence and compliance …

Following a tumultuous year, 2021 will prove to be a balancing act for organizations in Asia. They must tackle incoming business and IT challenges with a more budget-conscious approach, while aiming to maximize the return on their investments in new initiatives.

This will translate to bridging existing digital systems and applications with emerging technologies, putting a heavier emphasis on intelligent processes to save costs, and taking a closer look at network security to avoid exposing the business to more disruptions.

At the same time, strict compliance still needs to be maintained to meet the expectations of consumers and watchdog groups.

In view of these constraints and opportunities, here are five predictions for Asia’s business and IT landscape in 2021.  

1. Bridging the old and new—the return of COBOL: As a big shift from the usual deferred IT maintenance on core business systems, many local governments and public sector authorities are now seeking to revisit past investments within their IT estate to facilitate new modernization projects amid the increased digital demand resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Efforts will range from leveraging existing core business applications and in-house skills sets to bridge to new solutions, to more risky measures including the re-write and replacement of COBOL and mainframe systems.

Regardless of the direction, IT leaders will need to take into account the rising digital demands in 2021 and more scrutiny surrounding their IT decisions and actions. Modernization—rather than rip-and-replace—will likely be the preferred strategy that enables budget-strapped agencies to address immediate IT concerns while navigating a challenging financial environment.

2. Protecting core business systems with mainframe security upgrades: The continued use of the mainframe for business-critical applications and data, while a prudent strategy in the existing economic climate, comes with its own set of challenges, particularly around circumventing mounting digital risks and complying with the ever-evolving regulatory requirements.

While most organizations have relevant security controls in place, where they struggle is utilizing those same security measures on the mainframe. Extending enterprise-level security to the mainframe —access control, data privacy, and endpoint hardening—will be a key initiative for many organizations in 2021.

3. Decomposing applications to align with the business, with emphasis on API designs: Micro- and even nano- services are gaining traction as answers to the current issues of deployability, scalability, and business often experienced when dealing with large, monolithic applications.

Decomposing applications into smaller deliverables signals a shift to the smaller, incremental change delivery model preferred by agile organizations. However, all of these ‘x-service’-defined application models have a common interaction pathway: application programming interfaces (APIs) or RESTful APIs.

Breaking an API on a monolithic application can be troublesome, and breaking an API that is used by several other services in an x-service model application can take the entire application offline.

Versioning application APIs is one approach to dealing with service interactions, but a common API dependency model or API Oriented Architecture becomes critical as change rates and change impacts become faster and larger. Adding the increased use of microservice hubs/stores to the mix and the level of application complexity suddenly sees a tenfold jump.

Organizations need to keep in mind these practical considerations when building their API strategy so as to achieve effective designs that are closely aligned with business drivers.  

4. Connecting data lakes to power data analytics, business intelligence, and machine learning: Many solutions come with a built-in data lake and associated analytic capabilities—think AIOps, SecOps, IDM, and ESM systems. But when connected, these data lakes have the potential to unleash the next generation of solutions to solve complex data problems.

In 2021, IT leaders will experience increasing pressure to connect data lakes to automate and optimize organizations. The AIOps data lake needs to be correlated with the SecOps data lake to uncover advanced instruction patterns. The Identity Management data lake should be correlated with the Enterprise Service Management data lake to identify misuse or governance issues.

Also, we will see more companies trying to implement a true 360-degree insight model for their enterprise; at the same time, many of the traditional approaches to this will fall short.

5. Compliance will still be a challenge, made worse by the pandemic: Tech regulators are still very much reactive when it comes to enforcing compliance and imposing fines in the sense that they continue to rely on companies to ‘turn themselves in’.

The ongoing pandemic is going to test the regulators’ patience with companies blaming their lack of compliance on pandemic-related challenges—particularly those that rely on manual processes for compliance. In 2021, streamlining compliance with regulator certifications and implementing regulator standards will be key steps to tackle this issue.