After years of hearing that the mainframe is dead, a number of recent surveys have indicated that not only is the mainframe not dead, dependence on the mainframe is actually increasing. This sentiment is echoed in an excellent article I recently read by Christopher O'Malley, CEO of Compuware. You can read the original Forbes article here.
Conniving naysayers have propagated the myth of the mainframe’s demise for decades, but a swift and momentous evolution of mainframe innovation and usage in recent years has debunked this propaganda for large mainframe-powered organizations around the world. By 2019, 64% of them (up from 57% this year) will be running more than half their business-critical workloads on the mainframe, supporting analytics, blockchain and web and mobile activity, according to a Forrester Consulting study we at Compuware Corporation commissioned.
Decisions to increasingly leverage the mainframe aren’t arbitrary. Mainframe data is embedded in everyone’s day-to-day digital experiences. Mainframe reliability, availability and system security are unmatched by any other platform. And trying to migrate mission-critical workloads off the mainframe has proved to be a boon for vendors but a laborious, over-budget, futile endeavor for customers left holding the bill on a failed outcome.
We’ve found embracing a hybrid approach is more strategic, keeping competitively differentiating mission-critical workloads on the mainframe and using XaaS resources from cloud providers for more basic business applications and a platform for distributed infrastructure.
Still, as more organizations leverage the mainframe for competitive differentiation, they will need to overcome these obstacles:
1. Brain Drain
Over the past five years, mainframe-powered organizations have lost 23% of their mainframe workforce and only replaced one of every three experts lost, according to Forrester’s study.
The new development and operations people hired don’t have the mainframe experts’ knowledge of the platform’s esoteric differences. They don’t take well to its waterfall-based culture and processes. They desperately need familiar tools that enable them to ramp up on the mainframe, quickly.
2. Increasing Performance Expectations
Mainframe applications and data are the bedrock of customer experience, supporting 72% of customer-facing applications, according to Forrester’s study.