Compuware recently named Chris O’Malley as its new president of Mainframe Operations and has charged him with guiding the separation of that unit as a fully independent business. Enterprise Executive met with O’Malley—who led the transformation of CA’s mainframe business and most recently was CEO of VelociData, a start-up delivering data transformation solutions for connecting mainframes to Hadoop environments—to discuss his vision for the mainframe’s future and his plan for growing Compuware’s mainframe business as an independent company.

Enterprise Executive: Why would you take on leadership of a mainframe company when the hotter market opportunities are apparently elsewhere?

Chris O’Malley: People who dismiss the opportunities in the mainframe market are unfamiliar with the facts. Mainframe MIPS are on the rise worldwide and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. There’s not a single shop over 100K MIPS that’s even remotely considering retiring its mainframe. It takes a certain almost intentional kind of denial to ignore these market realities.

It also takes a certain denial to ignore the fact that the mainframe’s reliability, security, scalability and performance are unmatched. There’s a reason the mainframe remains the workhorse of most Fortune 1000 enterprises and much of the public sector—and it’s not just inertia. The cloud is a very attractive platform if you want to spin up a sales automation app or a development bed with nothing but your credit card and crossed fingers. But when it comes to the transactional workloads on which the world actually depends, the mainframe remains the only viable platform in the universe. That’s not going to change. And those workloads are only going to grow.

So, I’m a little less interested in whatever technologies-of-the-month are attracting hype and VC money at the moment than I am about investing my time and effort as wisely as possible. And, for me, that’s clearly in a platform that has been around for 50 years— and is certain to be around for 50 more.

EE: You sound pretty passionate.

O’Malley: I am—and I think with good reason. There is a lot of misunderstanding about the mainframe’s role in an increasingly technology-dependent world. Some of that misunderstanding is on the part of outsiders who don’t have a good grasp of the mainframe’s value proposition or capabilities. But some of it is also on the part of mainframe owners themselves, who have for understandable reasons become a bit territorial over the years. So, part of my mission is to help Compuware’s mainframe customers make better strategic decisions about how to optimize the value they deliver to the business.

One point I think a lot of senior IT leaders may want to consider if they haven’t already is the impact of decentralization on their resource allocation strategies. The cloud is allowing LOB decision-makers to acquire more of the technology capabilities they need directly from vendors, without IT’s involvement—at least upfront. In fact, I believe Gartner is predicting that 90 percent of all technology spending will occur outside of IT by 2020.

But the mainframe is the one resource that can’t be distributed to LOBs. So, logically, as cloud-related tech spending gets pushed out to LOBs, the mainframe will increasingly dominate what’s left of the centralized assets under IT’s direct care. This long-term trend has a variety of significant implications when it comes to structuring the allocation of IT resources.

EE: What would those implications be?

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