Ninety percent of the nearly 1,300 respondents to the recent annual BMC mainframe survey of mainframe users worldwide agree that the mainframe acts as a long-term strategic platform that provides the foundation for cutting-edge business applications.

This example from an insurance company illustrates this point: You can download a smartphone app that monitors your speed, travel locations, and other factors as you drive your car. The app can evaluate you as a driver based on the collected data. Another app will display your auto insurance policy options. A mainframe is a key component of both apps.

People are tapping into mainframe-hosted data in new ways, forcing IT to modernize mainframe applications, stretching the mainframe further. This poses interesting challenges. As new applications are rolled out, these applications generally require additional MIPS. More applications means increased complexity in the data center, which creates a staffing issue. Fortunately, technology can help meet these and other challenges.

Focus on disaster recovery. Workload demands placed on the mainframe are stressing its resiliency. As a result, IT must re-examine disaster recovery strategies to ensure rapid recovery if a disaster occurs. An outage could disrupt the business, and in some cases, cost millions of dollars.

Though database mirroring is a common way to protect data, it may not be enough to ensure fast recovery post-disaster. One IT organization experienced a corruption that occurred in the primary database, which was then replicated by the mirroring. As a result, the problem resurfaced after recovery.

Solutions should enable IT to recover from an earlier point in time at which the operation was normal. Additionally, solutions should coordinate the recovery across all components of multi-tiered business applications, both mainframe and distributed.

Address the skills shortage. Approximately 75 percent of respondents were concerned about losing skills due to the retirement of seasoned mainframe workers. At the same time, mainframe operations are becoming more complex, requiring the management of a more difficult environment with a less-experienced staff.

Technology can address this challenge by providing expert guidance to a more junior staff.  Solutions are available that provide built-in advisors that encapsulate mainframe expertise, such as DB2 tuning, and leverage it to recommend the best course of action.

Other solutions involve self-learning in the environment. Technology can analyze workloads, learn to distinguish between normal and abnormal variations, and alert the staff of situations that require attention. Some solutions can take action automatically based on expertise and analysis, which reduces the need for highly skilled experts.

Achieve cross-platform visibility and automation. More than 55 percent of respondents reported the need to integrate the mainframe into an application environment that spans multiple platforms and technologies.

You need automatic discovery of the components in your infrastructure and this information should be consolidated into a unified, enterprisewide view. This view should show the interdependencies of the components and their relationships to business services. This is particularly critical for technology that enables your cross-platform business services, such as middleware. It’s also important to automate cross-platform processes, such as the coordinated deployment of application updates, across all affected infrastructure components.

Reduce costs. Cost reduction is the number-one concern of IT management with 69 percent of respondents identifying this as their primary focus. A major mainframe cost contributor is MIPS consumption, with 59 percent of respondents expecting MIPS capacity to grow as they expand and add applications. This makes minimizing consumption a top priority. As you reduce consumption, however, you must maintain service delivery at the levels required by the business.

The technology you use should let you move appropriate processing tasks to System z Integrated Information Processors (zIIPs). Some tools also offload a substantial portion of their own processing to zIIPs. In addition, the cross-platform visibility and automation solutions can help reduce mainframe management costs by enabling IT staff to operate more efficiently.

By addressing these challenges with automation, you can continue to exploit the unmatched power, resilience, and security of the mainframe.