Contrary to the predictions of the past, what some may view as an “old-economy relic” is thriving; today’s mainframe remains a workhorse, driving many critical applications we use every day.
Further proof of this can be found in a recent research initiative from CA Technologies and the report “Mainframe as a Mainstay of the Enterprise 2012.” The survey responses represent IT decision-makers from a cross-section of businesses worldwide. More than half the respondents, 57 percent, represent companies recording revenue of more than $1 billion. The data in the study reinforces the view that the mainframe will have a seat at the IT table for years to come. The study indicated that to take the greatest advantage of the mainframe and its attributes, forward-thinking teams must consider the mainframe as:
• A strategic investment: As the computing environment grows more complex, the mainframe’s speed, scalability, security and availability make it strategically important to enterprise operations.
• Driving innovation: We see innovation surrounding the mainframe on multiple levels. The mainframe itself drives innovation with its sheer computing power, all while it adapts to emerging demands for mobile management and cloud computing. In addition, hardware manufacturers, application developers and other IT specialists are ensuring their own innovations are interoperable with the mainframe.
• Transforming the workforce: Just as the platform itself is now seamlessly integrated with other technologies, a new generation of IT professional needs multi-disciplinary skillsets that span the IT platform spectrum. They also must be skilled in other technologies and the processes and priorities of the business they support. IT decision-makers must do their part to present this discipline in a manner that attracts the greatest talent.
A Focus on Strategy
When asked about the strategic importance of the mainframe in the IT landscape, 77 percent of U.S. respondents and 81 percent of the global sample said the mainframe already is “a highly strategic part of their current and future IT strategy.” In addition, 29 percent of U.S. executives and 32 percent of their global counterparts plan to expand their use of the mainframe. In contrast, only 5 percent of U.S. respondents and 4 percent globally say the mainframe is non-strategic.
As organizations extend their IT environments to add private or public cloud services, 51 percent of U.S. respondents and 58 percent globally say the mainframe is a highly strategic part of their cloud computing strategies or will be in the near future. In contrast, only 19 percent of U.S. respondents and 14 percent of their global counterparts say they keep their cloud computing strategies separate from their mainframe strategy.
These organizations are showing the advantages of that synergy. When asked whether their organization has implemented or is evaluating new tools that enable the rapid deployment and cost-efficient provisioning of private and hybrid cloud services on the mainframe platform, 52 percent of U.S. respondents and 59 percent globally have already implemented such tools or are evaluating them now. Linux on System z is certainly a route for cloud on the mainframe.
Follow the Money
The value of IT can be identified by tracking the investments being made. The study shows that mainframe numbers are strong.
Take software: More than half, 51 percent, of U.S. professionals surveyed plan to spend more in the next 12 to 18 months; 35 percent expect their budget to stay the same, while 14 percent expect a drop. The corresponding global numbers show that 46 percent plan to increase their spending, 34 percent will stay the same, and 20 percent will spend less. Figure 1 shows responses from 623 global and 251 U.S. respondents regarding their scale of mainframe software investments over the next 12 to 18 months vs. the previous 12 to 18 months.
It’s a similar story with hardware. While nearly half of all U.S. respondents, 49 percent, say they will maintain their budget, only 21 percent anticipate a decline and another 30 percent say they will see an increase. Again, the worldwide numbers are even stronger: 41 percent say they will stay the same, 23 percent expect a drop, and 36 percent will spend more.
It’s the same with services. In the U.S., 47 percent of companies will hold to their existing budgets and 16 percent will see less, but 37 percent will spend more. Internationally, 39 percent will stay the same, 18 percent will lose some resources, and 44 percent will spend more.
The Human Factor
Given how integrated the mainframe is with other technologies, it’s no surprise that companies are seeking staff with both mainframe and distributed skillsets. Over the next 12 to 18 months, 84 to 89 percent of organizations will be implementing a hybrid, cross-platform management model with a shared budget, staffing, and leadership. That’s why a clear majority of employees both in the U.S. (55 percent) and globally (54 percent) says it’s essential that new talent have both mainframe skills and distributed/open system skills.
There are indications of trouble in this area, albeit with a silver lining. More than a quarter of U.S. respondents, 27 percent, and 29 percent globally, believe their organization will face a shortage of critical mainframe skills in just one to three years; another 28 percent to 27 percent say the same about the next four to five years.
Despite the anticipated shortage, 98 percent feel their organization is well-prepared to ensure continuing mainframe operations.
Let’s Talk Trends
The industry’s biggest catch phrases—big data, mobility and innovation—apply to the mainframe today. The mainframe was made for big data. With its scalability and speed, it’s well-suited to handle the growing volume of structured and unstructured digital content. We also see new meeting old as more than 36 percent of U.S. companies and 44 percent globally have either already sanctioned mobile management of the mainframe or will do so in the next six months.
The Future Path
This study shows that any discussion of mainframe needs to be forward-looking, not a nostalgic look at the past. The mainframe has showed it’s still viable by virtue of its benefits to the business. Success with the mainframe will be realized by those who look forward and see the platform as an instrument of change to power today’s business.