Warren Buffet’s recent sell-off of IBM stock started another round of discussions about the credentials of "Big Blue." The press clippings about IBM’s fiscal performance, combined with the musings of trade journalists, mean you could be forgiven for thinking this might end badly for the mainframe world. After all, 20 quarters of IBM missing revenue targets coupled with unprecedented choice in the server market is making life very hard for the most venerable of machines.   

It’s Not How Big It Is, It’s How You Use It 

What we do know is that 58 percent of large organizations, as of this year, still want to fully leverage their mainframe investment. We also know that the overwhelming majority of the world’s largest banks, insurers and retailers run their business on mainframes, according to IBM.   

Any review of a platform, especially one so business-critical, needs to fundamentally consider why anyone would need it. And in today’s digital-everything world, one has to assess the changing requirements of IT in the contemporary commercial environment, and the mainframe’s ability to cope with these changes. A better question therefore would be, what’s driving change in the large-scale organizations that possess mainframe computing power today?   

Digital Transformation 

The digital economy is here, and money is being spent—Finextra reported nearly two years ago that $16.6 billion is being pumped into digital transformation in American banking alone. Meanwhile, the European Bank ING has adopted a close collaboration model with technology providers to support its digital transformation programme. 

Digital transformation is driving customers to look for ways to maximize their mainframe investment. 67 percent of organizations in the same BMC survey referenced above are looking to increase capacity on their mainframe to meet their business priorities. That is to say, they are betting on the mainframe to support transformation.   

In a keynote session at SHARE in March 2017, industry commentator Peter Ruttan of IDC asserted that progressive organizations are integrating and modernizing mainframe operations as part of their transformational process. So much so, they aspire to having “a connected mainframe” that sits at the heart of a digital organisation, not apart from it.   

Brands including Target, Walmart and Capital One have talked about their own internal transformation programs. Mainframe technology remains central to how they conduct business. Indeed, Wal-Mart spoke at the mainframe SHARE event in 2016 about its transformation program.   

Flexible Foundations 

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