In my previous column, we discussed six best practices that leverage the tremendous capabilities of the mainframe to help build the digital enterprise. It’s fair to ask the follow-up question, “How do you know where to start when looking to implement these best practices?” The simple response is, “Get an MRI for your mainframe!”

No, I’m not telling you to purchase a magnetic resonance imaging scanner—that wouldn’t be healthy for your hardware! In this case, MRI stands for “mainframe resource intelligence.” Think of it this way: In medicine, an MRI scan collects data to quickly reveal hidden ailments and offer actionable insights to get a patient on the path to recovery. Like the human body, the mainframe contains a wealth of data that is mostly concealed from sight. Collecting, measuring, assessing and benchmarking this data through an MRI can reveal hidden costs, operational gaps and key opportunities to transform all aspects of IT delivery.

The Critical Need for an MRI

The need for a single, overarching mainframe diagnostic has, quite frankly, never been greater because the stresses placed on mainframes continue to increase. According to The Arcati Yearbook 2018, a significant majority (78 percent) of mainframe clients plan to grow MIPS by 10 percent—but most haven’t been given any additional budget or resources with which to do so. Teams suffer from an inability to predict capacity and unplanned spikes as the mainframe takes on a variety of workloads, some of which may have limited visibility due to mobile or web-based applications hitting mainframe systems via APIs. Cyber threats are growing, with the total cost of a data breach averaging $3.62M. Mainframe experts are retiring, leaving a knowledge and skills gap behind that teams must adapt to. And that’s just a few of the challenges practitioners are facing.

An MRI solution that scans, assesses, and reports on complex mainframe environments can bring clarity to your business. At its core, the MRI is an assessment. It’s designed to understand and measure the as-is state and help you craft the desired to-be state through a tangible set of recommendations. After all, you can’t measure what you can’t see. You can’t improve what you don’t know. You can’t move forward without clear direction.

For example, an MRI can be used to demonstrate how to optimize platform economics through targeted cost reduction. Compliance to regulations (e.g., DISA, STIGS, GDPR, PCI) can be assessed to improve data-centric and user-centric security. An MRI can help decrease MTTR (Mean Time to Resolution) to push forward the vision of a self-driving data center. And you can give your agile DevOps toolchain a speed boost by discerning how to increase release velocity while simultaneously reducing defects.

Using an MRI to Ensure Resources

Let’s go a little deeper to explore the full value of an MRI for your mainframe—and to do so, let’s talk about ensuring resources through platform optimization. Ensuring resources has a great deal to do with costs, since (unfortunately) nobody is going to give you extra budget out of the goodness of their heart. If you want to optimize your mainframe platform, you’re going to have to take costs from somewhere else, in order to invest them in higher-value parts of the business. An MRI solution will help you find those costs by:

  • Assessing your hardware, including capacity management for workloads and MLC usage predictions to avoid incurring penalties. As an additional benefit, optimizing capacity management can potentially delay a capex purchase of new hardware. 
  • Evaluating your software to remove overlapping or redundant tools, simplify your footprint, and reduce license costs
  • Identifying how to improve hardware utilization by leveraging platform enhancements such as zIIP specialty engines to decrease general purpose CPU usage
  • Revealing where improved tooling and modern user interfaces are needed to boost productivity and agility cross-platform, lowering the per-transaction FTE cost.

For example, an MRI analysis might recommend the adoption of dynamic capacity forecasting. Experience has shown enterprises that implement dynamic capacity forecasting can save at least 10 percent of their MLC costs and $200K per LPAR. This is a definite win for the business, yielding both substantial savings and operational enhancements. 

Benchmarking Your Success

The benefits of an MRI for your mainframe don’t stop with the initial analysis. The baseline analysis can be used to continually benchmark progress in each area, including lowering costs, increasing efficiencies and boosting productivity. Clients agree; for example, a systems leader who recently viewed this solution quickly saw how an MRI could help his team in the short-term to increase efficiencies, and in the long-term to benchmark as a way to contribute to his organization’s overall performance.

That’s the final revelation—ultimately, the MRI isn’t really about your mainframe; it’s about the longevity, health, and strength of your business. I invite you to reach out to me, or anyone on our team to discuss how an MRI can help your business.