The Mainframe is Dead – Says Who?

As with all brash, bold and belligerent statements you just need to peel the cover back a tiny little bit to sort out the myth from the reality.

Just like our good friends at Coca Cola trying to tell us, complete with beautiful ‘green’ and ‘earthey’ packaging, that Coke is now healthy because they are using some ‘natural sweeteners’ the reality is that just one bottle of the poison still has 10 whole teaspoons of sugar in it! Healthy Coke? Mainframe dead?

Let’s look at the facts;

  • 96 of the world’s top 100 banks run mainframes
  • 23 of the top 25 US retailers run mainframes
  • 9 out of 10 of the world’s largest life and health insurance companies run on mainframes
  • More than 70% of the global Fortune 500 run Mainframes

Mainframes process roughly 30 billion business transactions per day, including most credit cards transactions and stock trades.

In the past few years more than 120 new mainframes have been delivered into new computing environments around the world – all for high end, no risk tasks.

The technology is still the most scalable, most robust and most secure technology platform in the world.

Oh yeh and I almost forgot – the world’s first Cloud computing environment was built on a mainframe – 50 years ago.

There is no doubt that for some workloads the SW pricing and scale of these beasts makes them prohibitive but for lots and lots of reasons the mainframe has a big role to play for the next 20 years or more. In fact it would be a very difficult task for a telco or utility company to justify moving an application like a billing system off a mainframe – it just wouldn’t make sense.

Behind the Myth

The reason this myth grows and the concerns that some people have about the mainframe is that there is an undenial fact that less graduates are taking up mainframe courses and specialising in the field – we have an aging workforce and its shrinking. However such a move should be of no concern – it is a natural and important ‘cleansing’ process where efficiency and process are being improved by the shift from inhouse operations to ‘as a service’ operations models. In the past a company had to employ and retain a raft of specialists that were often working at sub-optimal capacity but you dealt with it because you had no choice – you were vulnerable because zBetty or zBill were essential headcount even if they had such great jobs that they didn’t need to do a hell of a lot – unless something went wrong. Then they quickly became very valuable.

What’s changed now is that people like zBetty and zBill now work at places like ISI and their skills are applied across multiple client requirements and everyone wins.

zBetty and zBill have role diversity and job satisfaction, the end user spends 75% or less on what used to cost him 120 cents in the dollar before and the very best skills in the industry are being applied to the appropriate challenges.

Mainframe as a Service is a viable and popular choice to run essential and legacy apps. Its more flexible and lower cost than traditional outsourcing and more resilient and scalable than internal DIY models.

And of course – those mainframes aren’t going away any time soon.