The Proper Role for the Mainframe

Arthur Cole

Mainframes continue to hold their own against the onslaught of distributed server architectures, not because they are considered superior to newer technologies but because they still have a unique role to play in the enterprise.

 

Recent market research from BMC Software http://home.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20070828005426&newsLang=enindicates that 90 percent of mainframe users see the devices as long-term data hub and transaction server solutions fully suited to expected future workloads, particularly in SOA and Web services endeavors. Distributed servers, meanwhile, are likely to appeal to specialized shops with low MIPS requirements.

 

According to Richard Ptak of Ptak Noel and Associates, new user interfaces and other advances have made the mainframe the preferred solution for such critical tasks as multiple workload processing, utilization tracking, network analysis, control centralization and resource allocation. And while the server community is scrambling to improve the normal 10 to 20 percent utilization rate with virtualization and other technologies, mainframes can run as high as 90 percent.

 

Of course, when you think mainframe, you think IBM. The company has not been shy about boosting the attributes of the System z, which is a far cry from the mainframe of yesteryear in terms of size, weight, power efficiency and capabilities. The z9, for example, comes in at 1,542 pounds on a 13.31-square-foot footprint. The BC version starts at $100,000, supports up to 64 GB of memory and provides seven customizable processor engines, plus a System Assist Processor (SAP).

 

There are also manpower issues to consider. In this Q&A with IT Jungle, the chief architect at software developer CA says it's easier to maintain a small staff of competent mainframe application experts than to constantly churn through Windows, Linux and UNIX programmers and managers.


 

But no matter which architecture you choose, staffing is likely to get tight. The U.S. Department of Labor expects another 600,000 IT jobs in the next five years, with only 200,000 qualified graduates.

 

Still there are those who say the mainframe's days are numbered. Pat Gelsinger, Intel's senior VP for enterprise systems who has been predicting the end for close to 20 years, now says that virtualization will soon allow mainframe applications to run on x86 servers.

 

Intel, in fact, has pitched its Itanium chip as a mainframe alternative, although not with overwhelming success so far. Cheaper is all well and good, but there's something to be said for stability as well.

 

After years of listening to how new technologies will make old ones obsolete, I've come to conclude that the transformation is rarely total. We still listen to the radio, and there are still plenty of folks with a vinyl record collection (you know who you are). If you ask me if there is room in the modern enterprise for both mainframes and smaller servers, my answer is "you bet."



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Sep 21, 2007 11:45 AM Kim Buck Kim Buck  says:
Hi Arthur-Nice commentary. Another viable option for maintaining mainframe resources on a more modern platform is to use BEA Tuxedo and Metaware running on Sun's Solaris OS and SPARC servers. This combination offers mainframe-quality service, lower TCO, greater energy efficiency, and a wider talent pool of administrators. Check it out!http:/www.sun.com/third-party/global/bea/initiatives/mfr.html Reply
Sep 21, 2007 12:37 PM francis carden francis carden  says:
Having been "rejuvanating" for my first 20 years if business, I know too well why it is so hard to replace mainframes. They will always play a role. You could argue, lots of processors in a virtualized world really is just another generation of mainframe!!What's now strange, but probably predictable is that we see huge growth in Service Enabling the other "legacy" applications, like win32 apps, web apps, Java apps, Ajax apps, even office apps. At OpenSpan, we can take almost any desktop application, written yesterday or 20 years ago, and wrap a service around it for mid-tier consumption. Relying on Virtualization Servers to serve up the scaleable environment to run desktop applications, that can now me transformed into services. This approach, like the mainframe provides agile SOA in weeks, rather than years. This is fun! Good Post. Reply
Sep 23, 2007 6:18 AM Saulo Barbar Saulo Barbar  says:
That is a very good article. We have beeing just to begging aproject to support a decision to keep on with our mainframe or to migrate to a lower plattaform.By the way, some of you have articles on mainframe environment segregation. That is: to have independent environments to development, testing and production?Thanks a lot.Saulo Barbar (sbarbara@proderj.rj.gov.br) Reply
Sep 23, 2007 6:20 AM Saulo Barbar Saulo Barbar  says:
That is a very good article. By the way, some of you have articles on mainframe environment segregation. That is: to have independent environments to development, testing and production?Thanks a lot.Saulo Barbar (sbarbara@proderj.rj.gov.br) Reply
Jun 20, 2008 1:34 AM battery battery  says:
By the way, some of you have articles on mainframe environment segregation. That is: to have independent environments to development, testing and production? Reply
Jun 25, 2008 5:21 AM battery battery  says:
how they will manage .NET applications on SQL Server when they will go live - the only chance will be they should not have to scale (i.e. less customers probably), because MS is NOT selling a full blown production ripe Windows Server 2Kx I wonder who are the young Lancelots ready to save IBMs flagship Please let me quote Peter Armstrong again Reply

Post a comment

 

 

 

 


(Maximum characters: 1200). You have 1200 characters left.

 

null
null

 

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Sign up now and get the best business technology insights direct to your inbox.