Mainframe: IBM’s Golden Oldie Still Got The Midas Touch

Like the Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain misquote (mythquote?), reports of the death of the mainframe have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, the is doing very well, according to the recent BMC 2015 Annual Mainframe Report and a host of other sources, and its prospects have never looked brighter.

“Last year the mainframe celebrated 50 years… there are few things in the IT world that have that kind of longevity,” said John McKenny, VP of Marketing and Customer Support of ZSolutions Optimization, . A part of the company’s product management process, the 10th annual study was intended to provide a broader understanding of what’s happening in the overall market , as well as to help customers looking for more justifications for their existing and/or future mainframes

With the sale of its x86 server business to Lenovo last year, moved into the ‘other’ category in terms of server shipments, but when it comes to revenues, Big Blue held down a respectable third place (13.7%), behind HP and Dell, and $1.8-billion in Q2 (Gartner). IBM’s mainframe sales were up 15% in Q2, following a 30% increase in Q1, primarily driven by the release of new box.

“People say the mainframe is dead,” said Vernon Turner, an analyst at IDC, “but we say, hmmm, that’s a $4.5 billion tombstone.”

Claire Bailey, Director of Federal, State and Local Solutions, Compuware: “The mainframe is a technically matchless platform. Its performance, scalability, reliability and are far beyond that of any distributed or cloud infrastructure. In fact, despite the incalculable investments made in these commodity platforms, they have never come close to delivering what the mainframe does. That’s why the most critical workloads in both the public and private sectors continue to run almost exclusively on mainframes.”

Chad Rikansrud, aka Bigendian Smalls, infosec and security nerd: “If it’s important, it’s running on a mainframe.”

Most Fortune 100s – 90% according to IBM – are mainframe users. In addition:

-71% of all Fortune 500 companies have their core business on the mainframe;

-23 of the world’s top 25 retailers use a mainframe;

-92% of the top 100 banks use a mainframe;

-10 out of 10 of the top insurers use a mainframe;

-more than 225 state and local governments worldwide rely on a mainframe; and,

-9 of the top 10 global life and health insurance providers process their high-volume on mainframe.

In many respects, the BMC study’s key findings were similar to previous results, said McKenny. It’s not a huge surprise that the primary growth drivers are security and availability. What was a surprise was the growing interest in the platform.

“The amount of new app development is probably stronger than most folks would suggest. Looking back over 10 years of study… there’s been fairly consistent outlook for the platform and consistent growth of the platform.”

The top two priorities are cost (65%) and availability (59%), he said. However, the gap between the two has really “changed dramatically” in the last year. “We’re seeing the gap close from 18 points last year to 6 points this year.”

The underlying apps and the data that serve them have to be 24×7, said McKenny. “A couple of years ago, you could count on one or two hands where the apps had to be available 24×7… the availability bumping up was quite a big change”.

Other key findings include:

-security (56%) was the largest factor for continued investment in the mainframe;

-availability (55%) was a close second;

-48% of customers are continuing their investment because of the mainframe’s centralized data server capability;

-45% said their transaction throughput requirements are best suited to the mainframe; and,

-business/IT alignment, Data Privacy, Data Recovery and Application Modernization tied as the number three priority, behind cost and availability.

BMC’s survey also provided more evidence that the mainframe appears to be staging a comeback. We are seeing new customers coming on the platform, said McKenny. “We’re hearing about new clients on the platform.” Existing users are also bullish: “clearly 90% of respondents believe the platform has very long-term viability.”

BMC has been focused on helping its customers better understand the costs involved with mainframe computing, and based on the latest survey results, will continue to address that need, he said. Overall, McKenny is optimistic about the mainframe’s future.

“We’re seeing that clearly when we talk to clients that the mainframe is a key component of their digital strategy. They’re looking for ways to keep the platform running efficiently.”

Author: Steve Wexler

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