IBM Leverages Generative AI to Modernize Mainframe Applications

IBM Leverages Generative AI to Modernize Mainframe Applications
Image Credit: IBM

IBM has unveiled a new generative AI product called watsonx Code Assistant for Z to accelerate the modernization of COBOL applications on the IBM Z mainframe.

The new AI-powered tool is designed to help translate COBOL code to Java more efficiently, enabling businesses to modernize their critical mainframe applications while preserving the performance, security, and reliability of the IBM Z platform.

Watsonx Code Assistant for Z leverages a massive 20 billion parameter AI model trained on over 100 programming languages and 1.5 trillion tokens of code. Using this foundation, it is engineered to refactor, transform, and validate COBOL code to speed up mainframe modernization efforts.

Specifically, the product can help assess COBOL code, select services to modernize, and then automatically convert the identified COBOL code to optimized Java code. This streamlined process is intended to augment developer skills and productivity.

IBM states that the new offering targets the billions of lines of COBOL code running vital business processes globally. By selectively modernizing chunks of COBOL, businesses can bring new capabilities while avoiding risky wholesale rewrites.

The company believes watsonx Code Assistant for Z can significantly accelerate modernization compared to current approaches. It provides automated tooling for each step, including discovery, refactoring, transformation, and validation.

Crucially, IBM designed the AI-powered translation to optimize the resulting Java code for IBM Z environments. This aims to preserve the performance, security, reliability, and cost benefits of mainframes versus migrating applications off the platform.

The resulting Java code is object-oriented and is created to integrate smoothly with existing mainframe assets like CICS, IMS, and DB2. IBM states this AI-optimized approach can enhance applications while avoiding compromises.

Additional benefits IBM highlights include expanding access to IT skills, accelerating developer onboarding, and controlling the costs and risks of modernization projects.

The company reports strong initial customer interest in leveraging the new capabilities to reinvent solutions. Watsonx Code Assistant for Z will be previewed next month at TechXchange, IBM's top-tier tech event in Las Vegas. It is is set for general availability in Q4 2023.

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