data center (Timofeev Vladimir/

2019 Government Innovation Awards

CBP moves data-heavy work to mainframe as a service

Customs and Border Protection relies on massive amounts of data for its mission-critical operations in support of international travel and trade. All that data — from people and other IT systems in industry and government — requires heavy-duty mainframe computing to process. That traditional bulk computing capability becomes increasingly expensive and high-maintenance as it ages.

Mainframe as a Service

Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security

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To find more effective mainframe computing, the agency turned to scalable and consumption-based IT services — or mainframe as a service (MFaaS). The move followed similar infrastructure- and platform-as-a-service realignments CBP made to comply with the Office of Management and Budget’s data center consolidation policy and federal cloud migration mandates.

MFaaS enables mission-critical functions to continue reliably and securely while reducing costs. CBP officials said MFaaS gives them the flexibility to develop, test and deploy targeted applications for border security and trade facilitation while allowing systems to adjust to changes in processing, throughput and capacity requirements.

Thanks to MFaaS, CBP migrated portions of its Automated Commercial Environment to IBM’s SmartCloud this year. ACE is a data-heavy transactional system that the shipping import/export industry uses to move their products in and out of U.S. ports efficiently and securely.

Officials believe their use of MFaaS can be a model for other agencies that want to adopt cutting-edge technologies, such as cognitive-based computing and blockchain, without having to implement a heavy metal mainframe infrastructure to support it.

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