In his book “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?“, Lou Gerstner describes how, on his second day in his role as CEO of IBM (1993), his brother reported; “We have allowed the IT industry to endorse the paradigm that the mainframe is expensive, complex, not responsive, and workstation solutions are cheap, simple to operate, and responsive to business needs. While there is no truth to this paradigm, we have allowed competitors, opinion leaders, and our customers to exaggerate the differences. The result is a dramatic falloff in S/390(mainframes) sales, increased the credibility of Amdahl and Hitachi alternatives, loss of credibility of CIOs at major corporations, and loss of confidence that IBM has the customer’s best interests in mind in its sales organization”.
Please read this quote again and read it out aloud and slowly. Now think back to when this all happened. I was specifically touched by the part where he says; “loss of credibility of CIO’s at major corporations”. And as you will remember, many of us who believed that the mainframe was a good platform and “workstations” had not yet proven to be so cost effective and simple were told off, we received the stamp “In the way of progress, do not touch.. ” on our foreheads.
It’s almost 20 years later. IT is more complex and expensive than ever. And when we are asked to save money, and we bring up the subject of running Linux on System z or on blades attached to the Mainframe, very often, we are told that we are “just trying to protect our jobs”. Even though a lot has changed in the past few years, the myth of the “expensive, complex & non-responsive Mainframe,” is still very much alive. Everything that was supposed to replace the mainframe only replaced a small part of the processing and was soon followed up by newer technology. This happened every 5 years or so and even though every single one of them was supposed to replace all “old” technology , all they ever did was add more complexity. And though most of us will agree that Cloud computing can offer significant business benefits, we also know that it will replace some, but not ALL of the technology in IT infrastructures.
So when our IT Department is faced with budget cuts or other money saving exercises and we suggest using the mainframe as a way to save costs, increase efficiency and stability, the old myths come up again. And people often quickly point out that the latest technology will (again) be the only technology that can save the world. To everybody who recognizes this; please do not accept it this time. Let’s demonstrate that an elephant CAN dance.
The argument that only NEW Technology can solve whatever problem we face has been the wrong argument ever since we started with IT. It’s time to make people understand that they should listen to real arguments instead of 20 year old myths. For example; Linux on System Z has all the right arguments for being one of the solutions which solves some of today’s problems. Everybody who owns a mainframe should use it to reduce complexity, save energy and improve efficiency. Denying the power of the mainframe more than 20 years after it was declared dead by so many is not only not very smart, it´s like saying the earth is flat….