2012. A year where nobody seems to know what to expect. There is uncertainty about almost everything. Since we KNOW it will be an uncertain year, at least we can prepare ourselves for it, which, in itself, is a comforting thought.
According to the Chinese Zodiac, this is also the Year of the Dragon, which officially begins on January 23, 2012 and ends on February 9, 2013. This is very appropriate to Mainframers. Why? The Dragon is a creature of myth and legend, and representing royalty and power. Similarly, the mainframe is legendary within our industry, but when you want to talk about the state of the mainframe in 2012, opinions by many people are largely based on myths.
This subject has been covered in many articles and blogs. It’s the historical facts about the evolution of the mainframe that we don’t see enough about. Mainframe myths are no more accurate than stories about dragons. For those wanting to educate people, tell them to watch the video series: Big Iron – The Mainframe Story. And once you’ve educated them, they will also see why the mainframe has an important role to play in the IT strategies of many companies this year.
So I guess it’s safe to say that the 2012 could be the year of the legendary mainframe. Why? I have created a small list of solid, economical, environmental and business reasons why this is not just a statement.
- 1. Green IT.
A recent survey from Arcati shows that 56% of the respondents (down from 72% last year) don’t seem to bother with “Green IT”. I personally think people are confused by the difference between “Save the planet” and “Save Money”. Once they understand they can save money by moving workload to the mainframe, and as a consequence, reduce their energy bills, suddenly green can be translated in “green dollars”. And in these times, that’s more than welcome.
- 2. Cloud.
Yes, workloads have moved to the Cloud already, and more will follow. 2012 will be the year where we will not only see the real cost of doing this; we will also realize that our existing data and applications will not go away as quickly as promised by many Cloud evangelists. Many Cloud Services will be driven by data that resides on the mainframe. So unless you are going to duplicate all of it, you better make sure the mainframe can support the additional and often unexpected workload that is the result of these new Cloud Services.
- 3. Aging Workforce.
Even though some seem to disagree, customer surveys and my own anecdotal evidence (people at GSE conferences telling me they will retire in the next 12 months) tell me we are experiencing a mainframe brain drain. We MUST start using the right tools in 2012 to capture the knowledge of these people so it can be easily re-used by the next generation mainframers.
- 4. New Mainframe Management Solutions.
New generation of mainframers need new tools. Not only because we can’t simply expect them to work with an arcane 3270 interface (no matter how powerful), but also because the mainframe today is NOT the mainframe from 25 years ago and today’s complexity simply demands a more powerful and easy to use interface that helps analyze massive amounts of data in seconds.
- 5. Big Data.
Yes, this IS new, even though many mainframers think it’s not. Big Data means actually DOING something with all the data we have. And no matter what some people might say, the mainframe is a very cost effective platform to run things like this without having to copy massive amounts of data to other platforms.
- 6. Pragmatism.
If there is one thing the history of IT should have taught us, it’s pragmatism. “Old” things don’t just disappear; “new” things are not always better and more efficient. Doing things only because “you can” will no longer be acceptable by our educated Business Managers. Bias needs to go. It was never healthy to start with, and it limits our efforts to run IT as efficiently as possible. Biased people tend to fanatically hold on to what they know and this is not the right attitude in times where budget constraints are the norm, rather than the exception. “Fit-for-purpose” will evolve to be the best way to run IT. Some things will fit better in the Cloud, some on the mainframe and some on anything in between. Good. Be pragmatic about it.