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Friday, 20 January 2017 16:10

Is the mainframe dead?


Ninety-two of the world’s top 100 banks, 23 of the world’s 25 largest airlines, more than 70% of the biggest retailers, and all top 10 insurers still rely on mainframes. With apologies to Mark Twain, “reports of its death are greatly exaggerated.”

Last September, I attended BMC Engage not because I am a mainframe writer (although old enough to remember them) but because I was going to be in Las Vegas to attend Veritas Vision and it made sense. In many respects, the messages from BMC and Veritas overlapped – both were about reinvention.

In BMC's case. its staple of mainframe management tools had expanded to cover service management (IISSM) and ITIL, workload automation, IT operation, IT automation, Cloud management (about hybrid cloud), and mainframe.

James Russell, sales and change leader, Asia Pacific at BMC Software, has penned his thoughts on the “The undead: Mainframes alive and kicking and driving digital transformation” and his words are below.

BMC James Russell header"Let’s face it, most commentators predicted the decline and eventual extinction of the mainframe. But here’s the thing. Cloud computing didn’t kill the mainframe. And disruption and the digital transformation impacting all companies has in fact given new life to the mainframe. But alas, reports of its eventual death continue."

Consider the facts.

"Ninety-two of the world’s top 100 banks, 23 of the world’s 25 largest airlines, more than 70% of the biggest retailers, and all top 10 insurers still rely on the technology to exist. There are still about 2000 mainframes in active use around the world in healthcare, retail, manufacturing, public sector, telecom, and finance.

"It may come as a surprise that digital transformation programmes across the world are driving increased activity on mainframes – the perceived 'legacy’ technology that many assumed would be phased out. The mainframe continues to prove its relevance in the era of digital business and remains for many, the most stable, secure and mature environment to support IT initiatives.

"For the 11th consecutive year, BMC Software has conducted the world’s largest mainframe survey of its kind, with 1227 executives and technical professionals (51% – Americas, 42% – EMEA, 7% – AP) sharing their experience and perspectives with the mainframe in contemporary business.

"The overwhelming message again this year was that the mainframe is here to stay.

  • Eighty-nine percent predict the platform’s long-term viability, (down 1% from 2015). The reasons for continued investment remained similar with security, availability, and superior data server capability topping the list of considerations. This was so for of all sizes and verticals moving or staying on the mainframe. This isn’t entirely surprising when you consider the growing threat landscape and the perception of the mainframe as the least volatile environment.
  • For enterprise, 80% of the world’s corporate data remains on System z Servers, and 50% of business applications still touch the mainframe. Given many digital applications that are based on mobile or hand-held devices access data stored on mainframes, this is no doubt it’s contributing to mainframe momentum.
  • When it comes to understanding attitudes to the mainframe, the survey identified three groups - those increasing mainframe usage – 58%; those with a steady uptake – 23%; and those reducing their mainframe workloads, the smallest group, at 19%.

"Executives planning to grow their investment in mainframe see value in the platform for its availability, performance and security strengths. They often have growing revenues and are focused on modernisation and taking advantage of technologies such as Java, advanced automation, and lower-cost specialty mainframes.

"Others who plan to remain steady, view mainframes as a secure and highly available engine for running their businesses but are not looking to add new workloads.

"By contrast, the smallest group, 13% reducing mainframe usage, are now looking to other platforms as a perceived method of lowering costs.

"Looking at the three different approaches, the characteristics are outlined as follows:

Takes longer-term view of platform and invests in more capacity Relies on the platform’s availability and security strengths Management perceives that platform is outdated
Experiences more activity from digital business Places high priority on responsiveness to business Focus is on removing workloads
Focus is on implementing new technologies and automation Capacity remains steady Higher concern about skills and migrating more workloads off to solve the problem

"The increasing group optimise their environments through a number of methods and tend to invest in more innovative technologies to meet the demands of digital business. Where the mainframe fits in is that the latest models can simultaneously handle the most advanced and demanding workloads, while continuing to run applications that were written in the 1970s or earlier.

"This year’s report confirmed the mainframe’s continued growth is being powered first and foremost by today’s digital "Always On" world, and its demand for secure access to applications and data, at rapid speed and scale.

"As mainframes evolve and are compatible with these changing digital needs, there remains little sign of its impending death.

"Rather, it has a place in the modern cloud world we now find ourselves."

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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