A survey conducted last year by a large association of enterprise data center mangers was interpreted by some as suggesting the mainframe was on the way out. The evidence: over the next two years 46% are considering replacing at least one of their existing mainframes. And what are they replacing them with? Again, 46% are considering servers or alternative processors while just over 54% will replace them with another mainframe. Based on this, the mainframe sky is falling? You gotta be kidding.
BMC’s annual mainframe survey, conducted this past spring paints a decidedly different picture. In that study only 4% said the mainframe is not viable. Fully 85% of the 1700 respondents expect to grow their mainframe MIPS or at least maintain the same amount despite the recession. Nearly 60% indicated that the mainframe will attract new workloads over the next year. About half expect to expand the use of z specialty engines. Rest assured, for 96% of the BMC survey respondents the mainframe sky is not falling.
A recent survey of mainframe usage in Europe by CA found equal confidence in the mainframe: 82% of respondents report that they intend to use the mainframe in the future either as much or more than today.
The CA survey focused in part on cloud and here the mainframe came out strong. Almost 80% of European organizations believe the mainframe will be an integral part of their cloud computing strategies. Somewhat fewer, 70% of respondents, agree that cloud computing will sustain or extend the mainframe environment while 74% believe that the mainframe will have a role in any cloud computing initiative. Even more 79% of IT organizations believe the mainframe is an essential component of their cloud computing strategy.
Combining these survey results with IBM’s latest financials—reported here last week —should encourage anybody to quickly revisit the idea of the mainframe as a dead end platform. Over the next few quarters, the mainframe platform will continue to show strength as IBM gradually rolls out the promised goodies to will fill out the new zEnterprise environment. Also over the next few quarters, analysts like me will be rolling out case studies that delve into both the good and bad of the z196.
One of the most encouraging points to come out of the BMC study is number of organizations, 60%, indicating that they will roll out new workloads. Using the mainframe for high volume, can’t fail, mission-critical transaction processing is a no-brainer. That has been the bread and butter of the mainframe for decades and only those willing to assume near suicidal levels of risk would seriously consider migrating those workloads to a non-mainframe platform.
It is the new workloads, however, where the real mainframe excitement lies, things like BI. Organizations are rolling out Linux on the mainframe with increasing regularity and the new z196, which increases the Linux-on-z options, will make this even more attractive. The new x86 blades for the zBX, the extension cabinet for the z196, should arrive in the first half of next year and spark new workloads, possibly even widely rumored (and not denied by IBM) Windows workloads.
So, it is time to rethink whatever it is your organization thought of the mainframe before. As Bob Thomas, publisher of Mainframe Executive and zJournal puts it: The IBM mainframes of today are not your father’s or grandfather’s mainframe!