Mainframe no dinosaur

Read time 2min 50sec

The mainframe is not going away.

In fact, uptake is increasing globally and the mainframe is more flexible than ever before, while its robustness, availability and reliability improve year-on-year.

Contrary to some beliefs that the cloud will replace the mainframe, IBM Solutions sales manager Satish Babu points out that the mainframe actually supports cloud.

"There is a misconception that the cloud computing environment excludes mainframes and legacy systems," says Babu. "On the contrary, the mainframe was introduced to serve as the most robust, scaleable system ever. Now, coupled with new open standards interfaces, we can take the strengths of the mainframe into the new world.

"The mainframe is only a legacy system if it is not being used effectively. Where industry is innovating on the mainframe, its strengths enable new technologies," he says.

A recent white paper from information technology services company, Atos, notes that in spite of continual rumours of its death, the mainframe is alive and well and represents a viable and cost-effective platform for running modern IT systems.

According to Atos, mainframes are still able to run database, application, file server, Web server and firewall functions on one machine - and do so at a high level of security and reliability.

In fact, Atos explains, the greatest long-term threat to the mainframe market comes not from any weakness in the platform itself, but from the continued evolution of other platforms to a level that is 'good enough' to replace it.

The 2013 Arcati Mainframe User Survey also notes that some of the smaller sites are moving away from mainframes, not because of any particular issue with the mainframe platform, but because managers are unfamiliar with the mainframe culture.

According to Babu, cloud allows infrastructure and software to combine in a virtualised environment, and the mainframe is an infrastructure element of the overall construct.

"So they are not two different worlds," he points out. He notes that the enterprise IT environment has become increasingly complex as IT looks to move a dispersed computing environment back to a consolidated, single system of records, shared across geographical areas and devices for a lower total cost of ownership.

"You still need a mainframe, and it becomes a very viable infrastructure from which to deploy cloud services," he says.

For large enterprises with data security concerns, such as banks, this implies moving to a private cloud supported by a mainframe, he points out, adding that most of the world's top banks and largest insurance companies run mainframes.

For other enterprises, he states, the public cloud or a hybrid model may deliver the necessary benefits and economies of scale.

"We see organisations across the board moving toward the cloud," Babu says. "As virtualisation emerged, we saw less infrastructure needed. This led to standardisation, then automation, then cloud. It is all part of an incremental process of consolidation and improvement in cost containment and service delivery."

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