We often hear snide comments that basically say the mainframe was great in its day, but its not ready for prime time. Or, in other words, the mainframe just can't handle today's workloads or attract today's hot-shot young IT professionals. I just came across an excellent blog (written by Rocket Software's George Smyth) that totally debunks all of that tired old rubbish. I have taken the liberty of re-posting it here (to read it in its original form go here).
Mainframes have been the cornerstone of our technology landscape since the first IBM machines came on the market back in 1952. While this milestone may seem to show the technology’s age, the fact of the matter is that mainframe hardware and operating systems continue to power most of the world’s biggest companies—from global airlines to multinational banks.
With the mainframe at the center of these global brands, it’s the ideal tech platform on which companies can modernize and transform the way they do business with their customers. Equipped with the right software tools, you can take the power of the mainframe and use it to make company-wide modernization a reality.
The Main (frame) Benefits
Relying on mainframe technology to run critical processes makes perfect business sense, especially when you look at the capabilities of Big Iron. The hardware and operating systems can perform large-scale transaction processes—thousands of transactions per second: In fact, while also supporting thousands of users and applications accessing numerous data points—all at the same time, and all encrypted to keep your data safe.
A mainframe can manage terabytes of information stored within siloed databases, and handle data transfers between different IT systems, even those that require large-bandwidth.
The reality is that no other computer architecture can boast the sheer scope of improvements, optimizations and continuous service as the mainframe. Mission-critical is its middle name, and for good reason. The mainframe is often tasked with handling customer order processes, financial transactions, product and inventory control and payroll; to name just a few examples. Imagine a world in which the mainframe wasn’t around to carry out these tasks—things would fail and fail fast.
In fact, a report by Forrester found that of enterprises using a mainframe, 57 percent were running more than half of their business-critical applications on the platform. The report went further, by predicting that this number would rise to 64 percent by 2019. Clearly, “the mainframe is alive and growing at the heart of many businesses.”
Modernizing for the Future
IT decision makers that are working with the mainframe are currently faced with the perfect opportunity to take the technology further than ever before. Using existing modern software tools, companies can use the valuable information it holds to build and support new tech applications. These tools can also increase the speed and efficiency of the mainframe, so it can keep up with the growing demands from consumers for faster, more accurate service.
Another key reason to modernize the mainframe is to address the growing skills gap among developers and programmers. The average age of many mainframe experts is now passing that of retirement, with them originally developing applications in the COBOL and Assembler languages. These are languages that bright young developers do not know.
Fortunately, the languages and tools they do know and love, such as Java, Python, C++ and Git, are available today on the mainframe, making the technology accessible to a younger generation of IT experts; ensuring Big Iron can remain at the core of critical processes not only now, but for years to come.
Web, Mobile, Cloud—The Mainframe Can Do It All
Mainframe systems are not static environments and it would be wrong, or even damaging, for IT leaders to treat them as such. The new software tools that can be used on the mainframe are ideal for building cloud-based applications and taking these across both web and mobile devices.
For example, large supermarkets that have been a slave to the green screen terminal in their warehouses and shop floors for years, can now implement these tools to extend the critical data stored on the mainframe to mobile devices, putting the data into the palms of employees.
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) have made it possible for companies that run on a mainframe to take its processing power and make it work on web and mobile technology. Using APIs is the key to giving countless users and applications access to the same data, at the same time, and on any device. The mainframe’s security, reliability and scalability can be transferred to these new device platforms thanks to the APIs that allow for the sharing of data to build fresh, innovative mobile applications.
New Tech, Same Mainframe
Mainframe technology remains an intrinsic element of business, central to the landscape of modern IT solutions, including cloud and mobile applications.
Companies continue to depend on big iron for critical processes and operations, using modern technology to further enhance mainframe capabilities. As the new IBM z14 entices others to join the fold, the mainframe remains the platform for the future of modern business.