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Syncsort’s annual survey of almost 200 mainframe shops found that 83 percent of respondents cited security and availability as key strengths of the mainframe. Are you surprised? You can view the detailed results here for yourself.

Security and availability have been hallmarks of z Systems for decades. Even Syncsort’s top mainframe executive, Harvey Tessler, could point to little unexpected in the latest results: “Nothing surprising—at least no big surprises. Expect the usual reliability, security,” he noted.

The 2015 study also confirmed a few more recent trends I have long suspected. More than two-thirds (67 percent) of respondents cited integration with other standalone computing platforms such as Linux, UNIX, or Windows as a key strength of mainframe.

Similarly, the majority (79 percent) analyze real-time transactional data from the mainframe with a tool that resides directly on the mainframe. That, in fact, may be the most surprising response. Mainframe shops (or more likely the line-of-business managers they work with) are notorious for moving data off the mainframe for analytics, usually to distributed x86 platforms. The study showed respondents are also turning to platforms such as Splunk (11.8 percent), Hadoop (8.6 percent), and Spark (1.6 percent) to supplement their real-time data analysis.

Many of the respondents no doubt will continue to do so, but it makes little sense in 2015 with a modern z System running a current configuration. In truth, it makes little sense from either a performance or a cost standpoint to move data off a mainframe to perform analytics elsewhere. z Systems runs Hadoop and Spark natively. With your data and key analytics apps already on it, why bother incurring both the high overhead and high latency entailed in moving data back and forth to run on what is probably a slower platform anyway.

The only possible reason might be that the mainframe shop doesn’t run Linux on the mainframe at all. That can be easily remedied, however, especially now with the introduction of Ubuntu Linux for z Systems. C’mon, it’s late 2015; modernize your mainframe for the cloud-mobile-analytics world and stop wasting time and resources jumping back and forth to distributed systems that will run natively on z Systems today.

More encouraging is the interest of the respondents in big data and analytics. “The survey demonstrates that many big companies are using the mainframe as the back-end transaction hub for their Big Data strategies, grappling with the same data, cost, and management challenges they used it to tackle before, but applying it to more complex use cases with more and dauntingly large and diverse amounts of data,” said Denny Yost, associate publisher and editor-in-chief of Enterprise Executive magazine, which partnered with Syncsort on the survey. The results show the respondents’ interest in mainframe’s ability to be a hub for emerging big data analytics platforms also is growing.

On other issues, almost one-quarter of respondents ranked as very important the ability of the mainframe to run other computing platforms such as Linux on an LPAR or z/VM virtual machines as a key strength of the mainframe at their company. Over one-third of respondents ranked as very important the ability of the mainframe to integrate with other standalone computing platforms such as Linux, UNIX or Windows as a key strength of the mainframe at their company.

Maybe more surprising; only 70 percent on the respondents ranked as very important their organization's use of the mainframe for performing large-scale transaction processing or use of the mainframe for hosting mission-critical applications. Given that the respondents appeared to come from large, traditional mainframe shops you might have expected those numbers to be closer to 85-90 percent. Go figure.

When asked to rank their organization’s use of the mainframe to supplement or replace non-mainframe servers (i.e. RISC or x86-based servers) just 10 percent of the respondents considered it important. Clearly the hybrid mainframe-based data center is not a priority with these respondents.

So, what are they looking to improve in the next 12 months? The respondents’ top three initiatives are:

  • Meeting security and compliance requirements
  • Reducing CPU usage and related costs
  • Meeting Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

These aren’t the most ambitious goals I have ever encountered but they should be quite achievable in 2016.