In team sports, each player has a distinct way of making decisions and accomplishing his or her individual objectives as well as the team’s objectives. A baseball player may have personal goals, such as maintaining a certain batting average and zero errors in the field, as well as team goals, such as winning the game, the series, or the championship. For a team to be successful, the players must understand their differences, respect each other, and recognize the way each player’s skills complement those of the others. Successful teams take a holistic view and focus on the big picture of how each player’s unique capabilities enhance the team. A star shortstop who never misses a play is just as valuable as the consistent home-run hitter, but in a different way. Simultaneously, players must still address the challenges presented by their differences and find opportunities to improve the team.
This mindset also applies to the relationship between the mainframe and distributed systems, which bring different perspectives to computing. The mainframe is perceived as powerful, reliable, stable, secure, and steadfast—like the baseball team’s consistent home-run hitter. Distributed systems are known for their agility, with greater freedom of choice, such as in the diversity of hardware, operating systems, applications, databases, and programming languages. Distributed systems are like baseball’s utility players—adept at playing a variety of positions.
How are these two areas converging to deliver better value to information technology organizations? Distributed systems are taking on more of the traditional mainframe capabilities: availability, scalability, and virtualization. The mainframe is adapting to bring together the best of both worlds. This is evident by the adoption of technologies such as Java and reflected in a vision that the mainframe “box” could evolve with interfaces that would make it even more integrated with distributed systems. In addition, specialty engines have expanded the use of the mainframe while lowering the cost of ownership.
Business processes and the applications that support them span both distributed systems and the mainframe, so it’s important your processes and the solutions you use to provide the qualities of service you need with management and monitoring tools can work across the enterprise, too. The need for mainframe and distributed teams to work together is more critical than ever, as many key applications span multiple platforms. Without a unified team, the Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) can increase, which can negatively impact business application performance and availability profiles. Vendors should develop solutions that work across the enterprise because that’s how information technology organizations and their applications function.
That’s why you can benefit by working with a vendor with solutions that function harmoniously across the enterprise. This capability lets you leverage the advantages of single points of control and have a single view of the applications and the software stacks across the enterprise— as a single holistic entity.
By applying this approach, you can begin knocking down the barriers between information technology systems management and the lines of business management. For example, if a banking company has applications where interactions flow from a distributed system, the interactions will flow transactional work and application work through the enterprise from the distributed side through servers into back-end systems that may be running a complex set of processes using CICS, DB2, WebSphere MQ, and IMS. At the customer level, the person at the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) makes no distinction between distributed and mainframe processes. At the application level, the line of business makes no distinction between distributed and mainframe processes. At the IT department level, however, distinctions should be made, but only to isolate problems and notify the right subject matter expert for resolution.
At many of today’s world-class data centers, you’ll see distributed and mainframe systems working together to provide customers with the resilience, security, and reliability that large-scale, mission-critical information technology operations require. As mentioned in the previous ATM example, working across the enterprise offers the ability to look at an application more horizontally instead of through the lens of the various technology stacks on the distributed or mainframe sides.
The mainframe’s track record of steady innovation matches its robust architecture, keeping it at the heart of information technology environments focused on improving service, reducing cost, and managing risk. When paired with distributed systems, the mainframe becomes part of a common, big-picture view of the information technology infrastructure.