IT Management

Another sign of continued mainframe commitment is in the big “shops” — the ones with 10,000 or more MIPS installed. They keep growing, and IBM continues to fine-tune its software pricing approach to make it cost-effective for those customers to add new and legacy-related applications because of the attractive incremental costs.

FUNCTIONALITY Finally, the high levels of availability, reliability, security, scalability and manageability of the IBM mainframe still form a powerful platform for large, mission- critical applications.


On the downside, however, the IBM mainframe has two major problems that greatly discourage its selection as the platform of choice for new applications and new customers.

Although the IBM mainframe had a large independent software vendor (ISV) portfolio in the past, very few new applications are being developed for the platform, and many older ISV software products are not being upgraded.

IBM has attempted to address the problem with three initiatives.

  • First was Unix System Services, which provides the Unix 95 application programming interfaces under OS/390 and z/OS. Although it works, it was never a large source of application porting or development, because it requires OS/390 or z/OS knowledge.
  • Second has been the growing push for using Java on the mainframe, but it is still not a significant solution, although its use is growing.
  • Third, the largest success has been the implementation of Linux on the mainframe, because of the ease of porting and the extra support IBM has made available to ISVs to aid in the porting. The number of ported applications is growing, although a few major infrastructure applications have had the most significant impact.


One reason software costs have become a major issue is because most IBM mainframe software is priced on a capacity-based license and the mainframe runs a consolidated environment. Moreover, many ISVs with older legacy software tend to treat the platform as a “cash cow.” IBM is attempting to attack the ISV area by trying to get customers to move to equivalent IBM products that offer lower pricing models and by providing lower-priced (and lower-function) tools and utilities where it did not before have offerings.

Another software cost factor is the cost of the operating system compared to Unix — the Unix operating system cost is bundled into the hardware costs. OS/390 and z/OS provide a very high level of function but at a high cost. As an example, the price of z/OS running on a 2,500-MIPS system is approximately $1,177,000 per year. (That price is the Workload License Charge for a 15-way 2064-115, 2,490 MIPS, 426 million service units. The Parallel Sysplex License Charge is $1,313,000.)


Several other areas of concern are staffing issues and management perception issues. As fewer and fewer people exit college with mainframe training or experience, the burden on enterprises to provide “on the job” training grows. IBM is providing some help with special college programs and providing more automation and more simplified interfaces (graphical-user-interface wizards) for operators and system programmers.

The final problem area is the perception by many executives that the mainframe is outdated and obsolete and, therefore, should be avoided.


  • Some enterprises have valid concerns about the future of their IBM mainframe systems (application portfolio, software costs and staffing).
  • However, the IBM mainframe will continue to offer significant value for many enterprises for at least the next 10 years — and probably longer (0.7 probability).
  • Enterprises should continue to closely evaluate platform choices based on the total value offered for the investment made, and not on emotion. Z

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