Cloud computing

Live or let die: Why mainframe shops need to step up their game

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Digital transformation is here—Cloud, Analytics, Mobile, Security and Social, also referred to as CAMSS. But what does it mean to us mainframe shops? Is it an opportunity to save the day, or a path to become marginalized? That is 100% up to you and here is why.

The good news: CAMSS puts new requirements on the computing platform. My oldest daughter is on a soccer travel team, and when we recently went to a nearby town for a game, I checked us in at a hotel. Within a second of the cashier sliding my credit card through the strip, I got a text that read, “Transaction denied, enter ‘1’ if you did a transaction of $105 at this hotel.” I pushed ‘1’ and a second or two later, I got another text. “Card unlocked, please ask the cashier to re-run the transaction.”

What just happened?

A mainframe that processes thousands of transactions per second did real-time analysis identifying an unusual pattern. The speed of the mainframe, with built-in support for real-time analytics and support for up to 10TB of RAM makes the mainframe stand out as the leading platform for real-time analytics. Eighty percent of mobile workloads connect to data on the mainframe. The z13 can support more virtual servers than any other computer. The mainframe is hands down the best platform for many CAMSS workloads.

The bad news: Many mainframe shops develop software too slowly to support the needs of the business. That’s a problem, since the workloads on the mainframe are crucial for running the business, making too many LOBs see the mainframe department as an inhibitor of success, rather than the enabler for success it could and should be. This problem is further accentuated by two trends:

  • 65% of IT spending is currently influenced or controlled by LOBs, according to IDC, and they expect this figure to increase to 80% by the end of 2016
  • Cloud is in its simplest form a self-service model, making it easier to acquire computing power and other IT services. This lowers the threshold for finding alternatives to mainframes, although this practice comes with drawbacks.

When mainframe development organizations offer the most powerful computing platform for many CAMSS workloads on one hand, but on the other hand develop software too slowly, they force the business to make a potentially flawed choice between the best CAMSS platform and development that can be done at the speed of the business.

There is a simple solution. Today, we have the processes, tools, and knowledge of organizational transformation to adopt DevOps for Enterprise, allowing you to develop mainframe software at the speed of business. This is why adopting DevOps is imperative for mainframe shops that want to stay relevant.

My colleague and IBM distinguished engineer Rosalind Radcliffe, talks about this in her blog DevOps: As critical for Systems of Record as for Systems of Engagement. There, she shares DevOps best practices that clients can use to ensure that their mainframe development is aligned and coordinated with the often quicker development cycles demanded by today’s rapidly changing business requirements.

Just like the newest Bond movie Spectre, let the star of your enterprise delivery capability be a 50-year-old beauty called the mainframe, which can save the day when it comes to data, transactions, security, and innovative new workloads that support business requirements. I’m interested in your thoughts and experiences around transforming, so please share your comments.

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