September 13, 2011 – Mainframes are getting a boost in use from specialty engines plus social and mobile functionality, though concerns about legacy system dependence and a lack of skilled workers persist, according to a new vendor survey.  

BMC Software on Tuesday released “2011 Annual Mainframe Research Results,” its yearly summary of the mainframe marketplace. The survey consisted of 1,347 respondents, primarily technical professionals and managers, with 67 percent of those located in North America. About half were large enterprises with $1 billion in annual revenues, and the main industries covered were finances, insurance, government and technology.

The top function for mainframes remains the same: to reduce the cost of IT. However, attitudes and interest in secondary uses shifted in 2011, as millions of instructions per second, or MIPS utilization and reduction as well as increased data availability rose past business alignment, according to the survey.

Nearly three-fourths of respondents noted that use of mobile BI and tablets was shifting their connectivity with mainframe data, and more than 60 percent registered mainframe use for collaboration and social tools like blogging, according to results.

“You’re going to see more mobile app development for the mainframe, and it’s very suitable for that. The mainframe is plugged in and very much part of that hybrid environment, and it’s easier to use the mainframe on the back end and create a space for it … for social and mobile,” says Robin Reddick, BMC mainframe director of marketing.

Larger enterprises are finding slow, consistent growth in MIPs and specialty information engines, though SMBs are more often getting away from mainframes for those tasks, says Bill Miller, president of mainframe service management for BMC.

The skill set of mainframe workers is a slowly growing issue, with 32 percent of those in the survey “very concerned” about their staffing and capabilities with mainframe technology, nearly the same as last year but with a 9 percent increase from 2008. Internal training remains the primary source of preparing these workers, though Miller says the pool of good mainframe IT employees is too shallow for the vast marketplace.

Many other responses in the survey are consistent with answers and trends BMC has received in six years since compiling mainframe trends and analysis. Sixty-three percent of respondents stated that their mainframes will continue to grow and attract new workloads, a 6 percent increase from 2010. Down 5 percent from last year, 32 percent of respondents in 2011 stated that mainframes will continue to be viable though tied to legacy systems.

For more information on the survey, including a video, click here.

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