IT Management

The 2014 Corvette recently made its world debut at the North American International Auto Show. The redesign promises the power, torque and performance fans have long loved, coupled with an aggressively restyled exterior and interior and a host of new driving technologies.

When General Motors first introduced the Corvette in 1953, only about 300 were sold, but the new, bold American sports car was enough to pique the interest of hobbyists. Savvy engineers soon equipped the fledgling design with a V8, four-speed transmission and other elements that increased its power, and suddenly car lovers from all walks—from the corner garage to Hollywood—were captivated. The next few decades saw more tweaks against a backdrop of an evolving auto industry, including the near collapse of the automaker.

To say that overhauling a national symbol like Chevy Corvette is a risky move on the part of GM is an understatement. For that matter, making sizable changes to any mature product—including IT solutions—is a gamble. But taking such risk can invigorate the business as innovative ideas are taken from concept to customer. It’s even better when the innovations actually solve business problems, improve efficiencies and drive new revenue opportunities.

Like the Corvette, the mainframe made its commercial debut in the ’50s. Today, global businesses rely on the mainframe’s speed, reliability and security to power business-critical activities and services. From helping put a man on the moon to delivering today’s critical Web-based services, the mainframe is the backbone of enterprise IT. 

Whether it’s a Corvette or mainframe, power and performance come at a price. Mainframe hardware costs, license fees and apps can cost organizations millions of dollars annually. Yet, the mainframe is absolutely necessary to carrying out the day-to-day business of our lives. The explosive rise in mobile and Web apps is placing greater demand on the mainframe than ever before. A transaction outage is possible each time a banking or e-commerce request is initiated from a mobile device. The request travels a path fraught with the possibilities of snafus and bottlenecks as it’s transmitted through the phone, across all distributed tiers and into the depths of the mainframe and back. 

High-performance machines require specialized tools to ensure they’re operating efficiently. This is also true for mainframe systems. Traditional system and application monitoring tools can’t provide the depth and insight needed to solve today’s performance problems. As mainframes provide the back-end transaction processing for enterprise applications, performance monitoring tools must also support every tier of these mission-critical applications. End-to-end transaction visibility from the edge of the Internet, across all distributed tiers and into the depths of the mainframe will help enterprises keep their mainframe costs in check. Real-time visibility provides IT staff the ability to trace the life of a transaction from the time it’s initiated until completion. This enables companies to reduce their MIPS consumption and postpone hardware upgrades by proactively addressing performance issues.

Another mainframe challenge surrounds the increasing developer skills shortage that has begun as experienced Baby Boomers retire. The traditional mainframe development environment requires a skillset not found in distributed development environments. A new generation of developers, familiar with Integrated Development Environments (IDEs), is confused and turned off by the outdated green-screen ISPF user interface. With fewer developers to maintain these complex and customer-facing mainframe applications, the risk for an expensive application outage becomes a real possibility.

Fortunately, the future of mainframe development has arrived. Graphical IDEs that simplify the development environment provide an innovative and cost-effective solution. They deliver a modernized mainframe development interface that enables new mainframe developers to be productive without having to understand legacy mainframe development tools. Point-click-and-drag interfaces are used to produce high-quality applications that drive business success.

The iconic Vette and the venerable mainframe prove that as long as there are innovative ideas—and passionate people committed to bringing them to fruition—great things can be made even better.