Mainframe still refuses to die

Islandia (NY) – CA says the mainframe remains the cornerstone of enterprise computing, despite decades of pundits saying it was dead.

In a survey of  IT executives and managers at companies using the IBM System z mainframe in a variety of industries in the United States, Europe and Australia, respondents repeatedly chose the mainframe as the best platform for reliability, resilience, security, management, and compliance. Big iron was also chosen over other platforms when it came to cost-effectiveness, ‘greenness’ and affordability of staff.

An impressive 97 percent of respondents said that at least some of their distributed applications would fail in the event of lack of availability of the mainframe, while 76 percent said that managing a large number of distributed servers in their data centers has become a cost issue, with 67 percent stating that as the distributed infrastructure grows, the ability to run multiple applications on a single mainframe becomes more attractive.

“The mainframe is uniquely suited to the new challenges that IT organizations are facing as they are tasked with delivering more services to more users without being given proportionally increased resources,” says Vince Re, senior vice president of innovation in CA’s Mainframe Business Unit.

“This is why we are seeing an ongoing increase in the number of mainframe MIPS being shipped–and why IT organizations are in greater need than ever for mainframe management solutions that enable them to take full advantage of the mainframe’s differentiated capabilities.”

81 percent of respondents,  from companies with between $500 million to more than $10 billion in revenue, cited limited data center floor space as another challenge faced by their organizations, giving them yet another argument in favor of adding workloads to a single mainframe, rather than adding additional distributed servers.

Nostalgia alert
This writer still remembers mainframes fondly, having started his career in the wonderful world of IT in 1972 – years before the term ‘IT’ had been coined. At the age of 18, he found himself responsible for two mainframes valued at $3 million – and in those days, that was a lot of money. They occupied the space of four tennis courts, needed three phase power and were less powerful than the laptop on which I’m currently typing.

They were, however, a perfect introduction to how computers work – and more often didn’t – and the six foot high Lockheed ferrite core store cabinets held a massive 96K of memory each, giving each machine a total of 512K of memory. They were, however, ideal for keeping fish and chips warm.

And, in my humble opinion, ICL’s George 3 operating system still remains the finest OS ever made. I even have an X86 emulation of it running on a PC here. It runs perhaps 50 times faster than it did on the original hardware.

Perhaps the most sobering memory I have of those halcyon days was visiting the London Science Museum to discover a scale model of one of my computer suites containing a model of myself wearing ill-advised checked flared trousers and an extremely trendy afro.

And by far the best thing about the early 1970s was that if you told a girl you worked with computers, she was impressed rather than giving you the finger and going off with a guy who worked in a bank. Trouble is, those girls are now pushing sixty…

But if you can remember those days, you weren’t there, man.

CA’s survey results are available here.