With so much change and innovation occurring in the mainframe and information technology  world, it would be natural to just focus on what’s new. There’s certainly much to talk about; for example, we have mainframe workspaces that look like a cross between iTunes and Google Analytics. At the same time, historically non-mainframe shops are turning on brand new zEnterprise class systems to run production workloads on Linux on System z.

Having said that, don’t we all want to know what’s next? What will be the next big innovation or paradigm shift; the next “wow” in our industry?

Will a big or unknown outsourcer or Managed Service Provider (MSP) create a 1,000-mainframe powered “supercloud” and dominate the cloud on-demand industry? I can’t imagine Amazon loves spending the time and resources it takes to manage and do regular maintenance on its farm of 50,000-plus servers (the costs of which they’re surely passing on to customers). I would think an all-around better alternative with improved uptime, security, performance, and price would be very attractive to customers.  

Will the hybrid zEnterprise architecture really take hold, prompting an entirely new set of job categories? Hybrid IT developers, cross-enterprise IT managers, unified resource operators, etc. could be the hottest new jobs and training tracks very soon if this is indeed what happens over the upcoming months.

Will another vendor aggressively enter the market to really challenge and perhaps usurp IBM? Markets can shift in the blink of an eye these days and who is to say that Cray, Unisys, NCR or even a post-Steve Jobs’ Apple or an “unknown” doesn’t decide to enter the “mainframe” market with an elegant, easier-to-use alternative along with a simple pricing model and price points that are too good for organizations to pass up? Atari doesn’t make video game consoles any more and IBM has exited the PC industry they created, so why couldn’t a lower-cost, more secure, higher performance mainframe alternative shake up the industry and be the next big thing?  

And finally, will a production-quality, voice-operated interface be introduced for the next zManager (Siri is taken by Apple so perhaps Hal)? First the green screen, then the keyboard and mouse. Why not? What’s preventing that from being the next big thing?  

All of these would be extremely noteworthy and innovative and I wouldn’t rule any of them out (especially since I’ve seen people having actual conversations with their phones this week).

So what should be next? If that’s the question, do the “innovations” on the list still make sense? Or has my interest in the wow blinded me from something more obvious?

How about getting the good existing “things” to work together? If Cadillac can build a car with an iPod interface and a version of LifeCall (“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”) built into it, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for related IT products and solutions to work together, right?

Workload automation, application resource management, security, storage, etc. are pretty much each their own function and have a person or small team assigned to manage each one, so how about making the user experience the focus and getting them the integration we all know the users want? Maybe what’s next is just intelligent integration of the best of the tools that mainframers and IT managers of other platforms are using every day. I certainly know a few folks who could benefit from that kind of innovation and I suspect you do, too.

Let’s face it, it’s up to vendors to figure out what makes sense to integrate with what and execute on what they figure out. They also need to incorporate game-changing new innovations into IT management to help customers really leverage what the new big things offer. If the vendors in the IT management space can accomplish that next, I think we’ll all be willing to wait a little longer for an on-demand, talking supercloud.