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U.S. Public Sector Under Pressure to Upgrade Mainframes

State, local governments engage providers to enhance or replace aging systems to improve services, prevent failures, ISG Provider Lens™ report says

Demand for mainframe services among state and local governments in the U.S. is higher than ever, because many of these organizations can no longer wait to modernize their systems, according to a new research report published today by Information Services Group (ISG) (Nasdaq: III), a leading global technology research and advisory firm.

The 2024 ISG Provider Lens™ Mainframes — Services and Solutions report for the U.S. Public Sector finds agencies are alarmed by recent mainframe failures in some states. At the same time, their aging systems need to support new services, while many hard-to-replace mainframe experts are retiring.

“Mainframe upgrades come with a lot of uncertainties, but the risks of doing nothing continue to grow,” said Nathan Frey, partner and lead, ISG Public Sector, for the U.S. “State and local governments are taking action to prevent catastrophes and prepare to meet future constituent demands.”

U.S. public-sector demand for mainframe services is rising by as much as 10 percent to 20 percent, the report says, though growth is slower in the federal government due to regulatory and security constraints. By contrast, in the private sector, mainframe services engagements are growing by 5 percent or less, owing to already extensive moves to cloud computing.

Like private enterprises, large state and local agencies are recognizing that mainframes will be part of their IT infrastructure for the foreseeable future and are exploring hybrid approaches that integrate legacy systems with the cloud, ISG says. Hybrid strategies are harder for these organizations to carry out, because public-sector mainframes have not been updated as often, but providers are helping agencies close the gap using DevOps methodologies. Smaller public-sector clients are often choosing to move away from legacy systems through lift-and-shift initiatives.

AI is becoming essential to mainframe modernization and optimization, reducing costs and timelines by automating the analysis and documentation of legacy code, the report says. AI tools can recognize the patterns and dependencies in complex systems, helping IT teams recreate the business logic of mainframe applications in modern, cloud-based software.

“Public agencies need AI for mainframe analysis more than most, because their systems are especially complex after decades of modification,” said Jan Erik Aase, partner and global leader, ISG Provider Lens Research. “Service providers are helping them take advantage of these tools.”

Some state and local governments are turning to mainframe-as-a-service (MFaaS) engagements, allowing a third party to handle infrastructure and operations, ISG says. MFaaS adoption, though still in its early stages in the public sector, is less disruptive than application modernization and allows organizations to focus on broader digital transformation initiatives.

The report also explores other mainframe trends in the U.S. public sector, including the growth of mainframe operations services provided on site and the emerging importance of making mainframe data available for generative AI (GenAI) applications.

For more insights into the mainframe challenges faced by state and local governments, including fixing systems that need to run constantly and finding service providers that meet regulatory requirements for operating in the U.S., see the ISG Provider Lens™ Focal Points briefing here.

The 2024 ISG Provider Lens™ Mainframes — Services and Solutions report for the U.S. Public Sector evaluates the capabilities of 30 providers across four quadrants: Mainframe Optimization Services, Application Modernization Services, Mainframe as a Service (MFaaS) and Mainframe Operations.

The report names Ensono, Kyndryl, TCS and Wipro as Leaders in three quadrants each. It names Capgemini, DXC Technology, Infosys and Unisys as Leaders in two quadrants each. Accenture, Avanade (Asysco), HCLTech and Tech Mahindra are named as Leaders in one quadrant each.

In addition, FNTS and Wipro are named as Rising Stars — companies with a “promising portfolio” and “high future potential” by ISG’s definition — in one quadrant each.

A customized version of the report is available from FNTS.

In the area of customer experience, HCLTech is named the global ISG CX Star Performer for 2024 among mainframe service and solution providers. HCLTech earned the highest customer satisfaction scores in ISG's Voice of the Customer survey, which is part of the ISG Star of Excellence™ program, the premier quality recognition for the technology and business services industry.

The 2024 ISG Provider Lens™ Mainframes — Services and Solutions report for the U.S. Public Sector is available to subscribers or for one-time purchase on this webpage.

About ISG Provider Lens™ Research

The ISG Provider Lens™ Quadrant research series is the only service provider evaluation of its kind to combine empirical, data-driven research and market analysis with the real-world experience and observations of ISG's global advisory team. Enterprises will find a wealth of detailed data and market analysis to help guide their selection of appropriate sourcing partners, while ISG advisors use the reports to validate their own market knowledge and make recommendations to ISG's enterprise clients. The research currently covers providers offering their services globally, across Europe, as well as in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, the U.K., France, Benelux, Germany, Switzerland, the Nordics, Australia and Singapore/Malaysia, with additional markets to be added in the future. For more information about ISG Provider Lens research, please visit this webpage.

About ISG

ISG (Information Services Group) (Nasdaq: III) is a leading global technology research and advisory firm. A trusted business partner to more than 900 clients, including more than 75 of the world’s top 100 enterprises, ISG is committed to helping corporations, public sector organizations, and service and technology providers achieve operational excellence and faster growth. The firm specializes in digital transformation services, including AI and automation, cloud and data analytics; sourcing advisory; managed governance and risk services; network carrier services; strategy and operations design; change management; market intelligence and technology research and analysis. Founded in 2006, and based in Stamford, Conn., ISG employs more than 1,600 digital-ready professionals operating in more than 20 countries—a global team known for its innovative thinking, market influence, deep industry and technology expertise, and world-class research and analytical capabilities based on the industry’s most comprehensive marketplace data. For more information, visit


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