For anyone who doubts that the mainframe still has a role to play as data centers head into more virtual and cloud architectures, you need only look at the steady stream of third-party developments to realize that mainframes will be around for quite a while longer.
When you think of mainframes, you naturally think of the IBM System z platform, which has proven to be remarkably resilient in the face of economic uncertainty.
Third-party providers have picked up on that, realizing that mainframe users are keenly interested in leveraging their investment to the greatest possible degree. After all, anyone who has given up on the mainframe would have junked their systems in favor of clustered technology long ago.
Cutting mainframe costs is naturally a primary goal for many users, so it's no surprise that many of the latest developments focus on the operational side. NEON Enterprise Software, for example, just released the zPrime workload system designed to offload processing from the System z central processor to specialty systems like the System z Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) or the System z Application Assist Processor (zAAP). The package promises to shave 20 percent off the standard pricing structure for System z hardware and software costs by transferring as much as half the IMS, DB2, CICS, TSO/ISPF and batch workloads to the alternate processors.
Many firms are also teaming up to provide unified approaches to thorny issues like backup and recovery. Innovation Data Processing, Luminex and Data Domain, for instance, have joined forces on a disaster recovery system that combines their respective data protection, gateway and deduplication technologies in the hopes that more users will see the benefits of tapeless backup. The companies say their solution is most effective for organizations that have a mix of mainframes and open systems.
That may prove to be a winning strategy considering the mainframe continues to provide a ready home for Linux distributions. A recent survey from CA indicated that 93 percent of System z users plan to maintain or increase their use of IBM's Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) processing engine over the next two years. Nearly half reported an expected IFL usage growth of 20 to 40 percent, with 10 percent reporting an expected 76 percent increase. A note of caution, however: The survey largely backs up what CA has been saying in its ramp up of the company's Mainframe 2.0 initiative.
The mainframe's utility as a data center resource has been apparent for some time. However, its newfound applicability to the cloud has turned it back into a forward-looking platform. This change of attitude has given new life to the COBOL programming language as well. Many organizations are re-purposing their COBOL applications for the cloud, primarily because they are adept at keeping things under control in automated environments.
It's nice to think of the tried-and-true mainframe making a comeback after so many were ready to put it out to pasture just a short while ago. But putting emotionalism aside, enterprises today are focused on two things: what works, and what's cost-effective. The mainframe still comes through on both counts.