For the seventh year, BMC conducted a survey of mainframe shops worldwide. Clearly the mainframe not only isn’t dead but is growing in the shops where it is deployed. Find a copy of the study here and a video explaining it here.
Distributed systems shops may be surprised by the results but not those familiar with the mainframe. Key results:
- 90% of respondents consider the mainframe to be a long-term solution, and 50% expect it will attract new workloads.
- Keeping IT costs down remains the top priority—not exactly shocking—as 69% report cost as a major focus, up from 60% from 2011.
- 59% expect MIPS capacity to grow as they modernize and add applications to address expanding business needs.
- More than 55% reported a need to integrate the mainframe into enterprise IT systems comprised of multiple mainframe and distributed platforms.
The last point suggests IBM is on the right track with hybrid computing. Hybrid computing is IBM’s term for extremely tightly integrated multi-platform computing managed from a single console (on the mainframe) as a single virtualized system. It promises significant operational efficiency over deploying and managing multiple platforms separately.
IBM also is on the right track in terms of keeping costs down. One mainframe trick is to lower costs by enabling organizations to maximize the use of mainframe specialty engines in an effort to reduce consumption of costly GP MIPS. Specialty engines are processors optimized for specific workloads, such as Java or Linux or databases. The specialty engine advantage continues with the newest zEC12, incorporating the same 20% price/performance boost, essentially more MIPS bang for the buck.
Two-thirds of the respondents were using at least one specialty engine. Of all respondents, 16% were using five or more engines, a few using dozens. Not only do specialty engines deliver cheaper MIPS but they often are not considered in calculating software licensing charges, which lowers the cost even more.
About the only change noticeable in responses year-to-year is the jump in the respondent ranking of IT priorities. This year Business/IT alignment jumped from 7th to 4th. Priorities 1, 2, and 3 (Cost Reduction, Disaster Recovery, and Application Modernization respectively) remained the same. Priorities 5 and 6 (Efficient Use of MIPS and Reduced Impact of Outages respectively) fell from a tie for 4th last year.
The greater emphasis on Business/IT alignment isn’t exactly new. Industry gurus have been harping on it for years. Greater alignment between business and IT also suggests a strong need for hybrid computing, where varied business workloads can be mixed yet still be treated as a single system from the standpoint of efficiency management and operations. It also suggests IT needs to pay attention to business services management.
Actually, there was another surprise. Despite the mainframe’s reputation for rock solid availability and reliability, the survey noted that 39% of respondents reported unplanned outages. The primary causes for the outages were hardware failure (cited by 31% of respondents), system software failure (30%), in-house app failure (28%), and failed change process (22%). Of the respondents reporting outages, only 10% noted that the outage had significant impact. This was a new survey question this year so there is no comparison to previous years.
Respondents (59%) expect MIPS usage to continue to grow. Of that growth, 31% attribute it to increases in legacy and new apps while 9% attributed it to new apps. Legacy apps were cited by 19% of respondents.
In terms of modernizing apps, 46% of respondents planned to extend legacy code through SOA and web services while 43% wanted to increase the flexibility and agility of core apps. Thirty-four percent of respondents hoped to reduce legacy app support costs through modernization.
Maybe the most interesting data point came where 60% of the respondents agreed that the mainframe needed to be a good IT citizen supporting varied workloads across the enterprise. That’s really what zEnterprise hybrid computing is about.