IT Management

The mainframe is alive and well and heading for the clouds, according to the latest research from BMC Software.

The software vendor’s Sixth Annual Worldwide Mainframe Survey draws on feedback from more than 1,300 global mainframe users, providing a reliable snapshot of the plans and concerns of mainframers across the globe.

As in past years, the underlying message seems to be one of quiet confidence, with 93 percent of respondents expecting capacity to grow or remain steady. Of course, some growth is inevitable within a healthy IT environment, as most applications see some capacity expansion through daily workload increases.

The million dollar question, of course, is how much of the growth is due to new workloads, either running on traditional engines or, more likely, on specialty processors such as the System z Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) or System z Application Assist Processor (zAAP). Here the news is reasonably encouraging—47 percent of respondents said that new workloads and applications are contributing to their capacity growth. This trend is supported with more detailed analysis of the specialty hardware market. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they had zIIP processors in use within their organization, while 55 percent claim to have installed one (or more) of these systems in the last year. In view of the highly attractive pricing deals that IBM offers around its specialty processors, it’s slightly surprising that traditional MIPS still account for so much of the growth; however, this finding underlines the fact that most of the world’s business-critical applications still rely on IMS, CICS, and COBOL.

Since the launch of the z196, one of the biggest long-term attractions of the mainframe has been running heterogeneous applications within one box. The more advanced hybrid functions are rolling out slowly, but the ability to manage both centralized and distributed applications from the mainframe—or running the same toolset across different systems—is very much a reality. In the BMC survey, 64 percent of respondents said that unified tools across mainframe and distributed systems were either important or very important, and third-party software vendors with a multi-platform were equally important.

For the mainframe to survive into the future, it’s essential for IT planners to consider leveraging its strengths as a flexible server to integrate new technologies with existing back-end data sources. Encouragingly, the BMC survey identified a significant proportion of users who were incorporating the mainframe into their private cloud support plans. Similarly, nearly one-third of respondents were looking at mobile devices for accessing the mainframe, an area where we’ve seen a steadily growing range of tools and devices.

The bottom line for System z users in recessionary times is cost reduction, cited as the top-priority by the majority of BMC’s survey respondents. However, while mainframes provide a means of reducing costs through consolidation of distributed resources, users still feel System z prices are too high, and the survey found that this remains a major concern. BMC suggests that intelligent automation is the best route to cost saving (and, of course, it helps to avoid the impending mainframe skills shortage as well); but careful negotiation of mainframe contracts and license agreements is arguably the most effective way of achieving long-term savings.

Around the Vendors

IBM says that more than one-third of z196 sales to new customers are now outside the traditional markets of North America, Western Europe, and Japan. China is proving a particularly strong market for new systems, appealing to the many Chinese businesses and institutions that are experiencing exponential IT growth. One IT service provider, YLZ in Fujian province, recently selected a z10 to provide online services to its customers. This is the first stage of a project that will ultimately link seven other provinces, with a potential combined user base of 300 million individuals!

CA Technologies announced CA Mainframe Application Tuner, which combines two application performance management tools with new integration capabilities to help IT organizations pinpoint and resolve performance issues. This new integration feature helps performance managers identify the root causes of application performance inefficiencies in z/OS-based systems, improve response times, and lower CPU consumption.

Software Diversified Services (SDS) has been busy. The mainframe monitoring specialist announced new versions of its VitalSigns for Network Automation and Control and VitalSigns for IP, helping users consolidate system logs from multiple LPARs into a single searchable view. SDS has also released PGP Command Line 9 for IBM mainframes, extending PGP data encryption to the z/OS environment, and has teamed up with Tectia Corp. to provide tighter management of mainframe file transfers.