As someone who has worked in the mainframe industry for more than 20 years, I find it a little funny and somewhat frustrating that the mainframe has become culturally associated with AIs that are determined to eradicate or abuse humanity, for example, “The Terminator” and “The Matrix.”
Maybe worse, in a world of cloud processing and large-scale commodity clusters, many perceive mainframes as antiquated and irrelevant – which couldn’t be further from the truth. Mainframe computers are as important to IT infrastructures today as ever, and it’s time to dispel a few myths.
The mainframe is dead, or at least nearly so.
Wrong: Mobile users complete about 37 transactions a day, and 91 percent of their apps interact with a mainframe. Almost every transaction related to processing a credit card payment, shipping, and making airline reservations includes at least one mainframe interaction. Most create multiple interactions. Every time I use my smartphone or tablet to buy something, the app touches a mainframe for payment processing and shipping. Ironically, the more mobile you are, the more you interact with a mainframe.
Companies save money by replacing mainframes with a cloud-computing or large-scale cluster infrastructure.
Wrong: A multi-year study revealed that in 18 of 19 industry sectors, organizations that relied primarily on mainframes for their business growth averaged more income per dollar of IT infrastructure cost than peers relying primarily on commodity servers. The organizations relying on mainframes averaged 35 percent lower overall IT infrastructure costs compared to those relying on commodity servers.
The mainframe isn’t a modern technology.
Wrong: IBM continues to enhance and update its mainframe with three new generations in production. More important, each new generation can process data faster to satisfy the demands of digital businesses.
Today’s mainframe is accessible over the internet and by mobile applications, and developers are using Java and Linux to code for it. It’s also capable of processing 2.5 billion transactions a day, enabling real-time encryption of all mobile transactions at any scale as well as analytics on those transactions. This enables digital businesses to run real-time fraud detection on 100 percent of business transactions – making the mainframe quintessentially modern.
The mainframe isn’t sexy anymore, especially to millennials.
Wrong: For those that think that managing data on a mainframe is painful, requiring an old green screen terminal for access, administrators can now access the mainframe over the internet using smart devices, graphical interfaces and automated routines – making them every bit as fun to work on as distributed environments.
In fact, more than 100 colleges and universities in North America alone offer specialized training on mainframes because of the huge demand for mainframe professionals. And many graduates are earning more and finding faster advancement because baby boomers are retiring in huge numbers every day, creating opportunities for new mainframe specialists.
The mainframe isn’t part of the cloud and can’t be used for big data initiatives.
Wrong. The cloud is the ability to access data and applications over the internet – whether stored on a public, private or hybrid cloud infrastructure. If 91 percent of mobile apps are interacting with mainframes, then mainframes are an essential part of the cloud. Further, for companies relying on mainframes, 70 to 80 percent of their corporate data resides on them.
These companies know accessing data for analytics and creating more personalized services is faster on mainframes, especially as the amount of data continues to soar – making it critical for mainframes to be part of big data strategies.
There is no new, exciting application development taking place.
Wrong: According to a recent survey, 93 percent of mainframe organizations said Java usage is growing or steady, and Java is the language of choice for writing new or rewriting existing applications. Notably, 83 percent are projecting steady or growing mainframe capacity, and 90 percent are predicting long-term staying power for the mainframe platform.
New digital services don’t rely on mainframes.
Wrong…and perhaps the biggest distortion of the facts. New digital services rely heavily on mainframes for high-volume transactional processing in financial services (banking, credit cards and stock trading), insurance (claims processing), shipping (railroad and package delivery logistics), travel (fare publishing and reservations) and many other industries.
By 2017, each mobile customer will make about 50 transactions per day, and as a result of each of those transactions, somewhere between 300 and 5,000 mainframe interactions will be generated. That number will only continue to grow as more people use mobile devices as their primary computing platform for both their personal and professional lives.
The facts haven’t changed over the last 20 years and aren’t likely to do so over the next decade. Mainframes are the most reliable and most available systems for scaling many of the high-volume, mission-critical digital workloads.
So the next time you hear “mainframe,” don’t dismiss it as passé. Instead, think about using your mobile device to make purchases track your shipments and scheduling your next vacation.
(About the author: John McKenny is vice president of strategy and operations for ZSolutions Organization, BMC)
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