Mainframe here to stay, survey says

IT's planned use for the mainframe as a computing platform continues to grow, BMC survey finds.

The future looks bright for the mainframe as a majority of IT managers report they will continue to use the systems for legacy applications and start moving new workloads that could benefit from the mainframe's availability and scalability onto the platform.

In its annual survey of 1,100 mainframe users, management software maker BMC discovered that IT's planned use for the mainframe as a computing platform continues to grow. For instance, 65 percent of respondents said the mainframe platform will continue to grow and attract new workloads in their environment, compared with 52 percent of respondents who said the same in the 2007 survey. Thirty percent said that the mainframe will continue as a viable long-term platform, but restricted to legacy workloads. And 4 percent indicated mainframe users should consider an exit strategy in the next five years.

Fewer organizations surveyed this year also plan to eliminate their mainframe environment in the short term. According to BMC's findings, 59 percent of respondents said they would be ridding themselves of the mainframe in less than three years, compared with 74 percent in 2007. Thirty-six percent said they would work toward removing mainframes in three to six years and 6 percent expected to keep mainframes in house for more than six years.

Nearly three-fourths of those surveyed said the availability advantages that the mainframe offers keep the systems running in their IT shops. For 65 percent, the mainframe offers a superior centralized data serving environment. Sixty-two percent believe that transaction throughput requirements are best suited to the platform, and the same number value the mainframe's security strengths.

"In terms of stability, the mainframe is probably the best machine for transaction crunching. We service 2,000 end users at any given time, so having that kind of flexibility provides us with the ability to continue to support the health care environment while the mainframe processes applications and passes them down to other systems," says Paul Baquet Jr., a senior systems analyst at Duke Health Technology Solutions who oversees enterprise infrastructure and mainframe services and uses BMC software to monitor the environment.

Other reasons survey respondents choose to keep mainframes in-house include the ability to integrate the legacy platform with newer systems. For instance, 44 percent said that access to the platform is increasing through Web services and service-oriented architecture integration projects. And 42 percent reported they are leveraging legacy applications to create new business applications. Nearly one-third said specialty MIPS are supporting new applications and reducing overall mainframe total cost of ownership. And 16 percent said they are consolidating existing distributed workloads back to the mainframe.

"The mainframe is getting smaller and smaller, and the scalability just keeps getting better," Banquet says. "There is a place for the mainframe and there is a place for distributed systems. People in the industry are finding ways to make these work better together, but the mainframe is a very reliable machine and the distributed system just a junior still trying to grow up and be the mainframe."

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