The Mainframe and Innovation: Not Mutually Exclusive

Study shows majority of global IT decision-makers consider the mainframe highly strategic.

Study shows majority of global IT decision-makers consider the mainframe highly strategic.


Don’t count the mainframe out of your innovation plans. Despite continuing exaggerated reports that the mainframe is dead, the fact is the mainframe continues to play a key and increasing role in the technology strategy for the majority of IT professionals worldwide.


For instance, the core data processed and maintained on today’s Big Iron is key to many companies’ Big Data strategies. Others plan to base hybrid cloud services on the mainframe, and many more are enabling mobile management of the mainframe. Why? Because more than 80% of IT decision makers worldwide confirm the mainframe is a “highly strategic part of their IT plans,” according to a new CA Technologies study conducted by Decipher Research that surveyed some 623 IT professionals in 11 countries.


If you follow the money, the results are the same. The research reveals that nearly half (46%) of global respondents expect to increase spend on mainframe software in the next 12 to 18 months, while 36% anticipate an uptake in hardware spending during the same period. And 44% of global respondents said they plan to increase spend on mainframe-related services.


“Companies running mainframes are largely now committed to the platform,” says James Governor, founder and analyst at UK-based Redmonk. “We’re now seeing a modernization wave, where the customer modernizes its existing mainframe, rather than seeking to modernize by migrating to an alternative.”


“The Mainframe as a Mainstay of the Enterprise 2012” report from CA Technologies provides great detail on how the mainframe will play a critical role in several areas going forward, but let’s start by looking at the survey results. More than half of global respondents (58%) believe the mainframe is or will be a highly strategic platform in their cloud computing efforts. Some 63% of global respondents confirmed they are implementing private and hybrid clouds on the mainframe within the next 36 months.


Because the mainframe offers myriad benefits, including high throughput, near continuous availability, unmatched scalability and security, it should come as no surprise that the primary reasons the mainframe is being seen as an ideal enabler for cloud are flexibility in the delivery of new services, scalability and security. The platform is at once resilient and flexible; two critical traits for today’s sophisticated business environments. And now that mainframes fit nicely within complex, heterogeneous environments, the opportunities for innovation are endless.


Take another example drawn from the survey results. As I discussed in my February article in the Enterprise Systems Journal, Next-Generation Business Service Management — The Year Ahead, nearly 90% of organizations indicated they will be tearing down their current IT management silos by implementing a hybrid, cross-platform management model with shared budget, staffing and leadership. Breaking down the walls between mainframe and distributed environments will further the mainframe’s reach into emerging technology investments and eliminate the perception of Big Iron as back-office support system. Companies are not only converging their management approach to couple mainframe and distributed environments, but they’ve also been enabling remote management of the mainframe environment. Forty-four percent of global respondents currently enable mobile management of the mainframe or will in the next six months. Another 30% of worldwide respondents predict the same in six to 18 months.


IT decision makers realize the mainframe provides the perfect platform for emerging trends expected to transform enterprise IT. Take Big Data. Big Iron can directly address this significant growth of real-time data and the need for massive processing power to collate and analyze that information. In the name of “cost savings,” many organizations have implemented a systematic program of periodically creating copies of their business critical data and transmitting it to other platforms for business insight and analytics processing. In order to enable IT at the speed of business, today’s environments can no longer accept the latency in this process and the fact that the results produced by querying these copies are inherently stale as soon as the copy is available. The economics have changed sufficiently to make the power, scalability and proximity to the data that the mainframe provides as the most important factors on performing the analytics on the live data.


This worldwide data proves the mainframe can no longer just be considered a legacy part of IT’s past, but rather Big Iron can be seen on the horizon as a strategic player in multiple future IT plans. Tech leaders must not only commit to optimizing their mainframe environments, but also to extracting and applying the value of the mainframe to new technology endeavors such as cloud computing and Big Data to further innovative projects for the business. With the power and reliability of the mainframe behind IT, the opportunities for business innovation are endless.

Written by

Scott Fagen

A distinguished engineer reporting to CA Technologies' architecture team, Scott is the chief architect for…

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