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Blogs > The Norfolk Punt

Mainframe: Alive and Well!
David Norfolk By: David Norfolk, Practice Leader - Development, Bloor Research
Published: 19th September 2013
Copyright Bloor Research © 2013
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The 8th Annual BMC Software Mainframe Survey Results have just landed in my inbox, promoting an IBM Systems Magazine webinar on mainframe futures. It reminds me that I haven't written about mainframes recently. No need to really - which doesn't mean that they're not important, it means they are just a "fact of life".

I'm living in a world where 'development' means 'developing business solutions' and where the return of Cloud and Virtualisation (concepts I first met, under different names, in the world of the IBM370 mainframe) means that, at one level, I simply don't care if the third generation of Enterprise Server that businesses runs on is a zEnterprise or not or even whether it can legitimately still use the 'mainframe' tag.

All I really care about is that businesses run on reliable, secure, resilient platforms, Cloudy or not - although I do rather hope that any bank looking after my money is aware of the sort of servers where planned downtime is unknown, 5 minutes unplanned downtime a year is a surprise and the physical architecture keeps people sharing the platform securely apart from each other (and helps make malware unknown).

Which, of course, is why big businesses still run much of their businesses on what used to be called mainframes, although I prefer "Enterprise Server 3" as a name - it carries less baggage. What does concern me a bit is that some smaller businesses and startups (outside of the BRIC economies perhaps) are simply rejecting the mainframe option without really looking at whether it could be cost effective for them, although I also think that they should be starting to look at cloud solutions these days. However, even with cloud (where you just care about service levels, not how they are achieved), you need to do some initial due diligence, to achieve the confidence that your cloud service provider can actually deliver on its promises - and if I learnt that my cloud was hosted on what is usually called 'mainframe technology', I'd be happy to know that my supplier was at least building on a trustworthy, secure, platform.

Nevertheless, mainframes surveys often worry me a bit because they often survey, and are read by, the sort of people that already use mainframes. Good guys to talk to and swap war stories with, but I'm not very interested in convincing them that mainframes work well!

Some teasers from the survey. The majority of respondents (93%) indicated that they saw the mainframe as a long-term business strategy. One-half of the respondents believe that the mainframe will grow and attract new workloads, similar to last year (when it was 49%). For 28%, mainframe data is moved off platform for analytics but for 27% mainframe data acts as the Big Data analytic engine itself. And, if you think nothing happens in the world of mainframes, BMC has introduced 6 new mainframe products in the last 12 months (CA, Compuware and others are also still innovating in this world too, of course)

Can I appeal to people who still don't think that mainframes are relevant today, to click on some of the links above?

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