IT Management

Forward-thinking IT execs are eager to tap the dynamic potential of cloud architectures to cut costs by increasing automation and improving service delivery. Those same executives are pondering whether the mainframe has a role in their cloud strategy.

Many developers, architects, and IT managers perceive the mainframe as old, inflexible, closed, expensive, or worse. Perception is reality! Or is it? Is the mainframe really as bad as some say?

From where do these perceptions come? Do they come from the products? The technology? From zEnterprise? From the zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX)? From the zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager? From z/OS? CICS or DB2?

While a solid argument could be made to refute each ill perception posed, the bigger question is, “Would it really matter?” Being one who regularly argues the case for the modern mainframe, I’ve seen opinions influenced, but all too often, they remain entrenched. Why is that?

When non-mainframe pundits express their negative opinions of the mainframe for being old, inflexible, closed and expensive, could it be they’re really referencing the “culture” of the mainframe, rather than any specific mainframe product or technology? Perhaps it’s your enterprise’s culture as represented by your operational practices for managing the mainframe that is old, tired, closed, inflexible, and expensive. What is the reality of your mainframe practices and your mainframe support and services in the eyes of your developers and architects?

For a moment, let’s assume the problem isn’t mainframe technology, but that the real culprit is your mainframe culture. It may not be that hard to do. How easy have you made it for your developers and architects to sandbox new mainframe technology features and functions? How hard does your mainframe shop strive to control change to the point of resisting change? Is embracing “change” (i.e., new technology) something to be feared, deferred, argued, and/or ignored? An environment like that would neither appeal to nor attract developers or architects to the mainframe when those same individuals are aspiring to deliver new capabilities such as social analytics, question-answering learning systems, and multi-functional interfaces to an unnamed and nearly innumerable community of users.

Again, is it that the mainframe is old, tired, closed, inflexible and expensive, or is it your company's mainframe culture?

The Cloud’s Silver Lining

While cloud computing has many positive traits—including such things as rapid provisioning, automation, and standardization—perhaps the most important part is the simple idea of “services”—aka the “service catalog.” The service catalog defines the nature of the services provided by the cloud implementation. For example, depending on whether you’re providing Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), or Software as a Service (SaaS), your cloud services catalog would include infrastructure services, platform services, and/or software services. The cloud catalog describes what’s available as well as the options and parameters depicting the service levels available.

So, if the IT department is building a private cloud, then the service catalog defines the services and capabilities IT is determined to provide. Thus, if the services defined by an IT cloud are old, tired, closed, inflexible and expensive, then the technology under the covers has become irrelevant; obviously, and most important, the opposite will be true as well!

The cloud service catalog is offering modern mainframe IT shops a way to redefine themselves, maybe even a way to do an image makeover! If a mainframe shop defines and delivers a service catalog that’s modern, responsive, flexible, open and inexpensive, then accordingly, a new set of perceptions will follow. If, on the other hand, a mainframe shop can’t create a set of effective offerings, then that mainframe shop owes it to its constituents to send them shopping elsewhere for the support they need.

To summarize, if a mainframe shop can change its culture from one that’s old, tired, closed, inflexible, and expensive to one that’s open, modern, adaptive, and a price-performer, via the construction of an modern and effective service catalog, then cloud computing is the game-changer the modernist mainframe culture has been waiting for.