Why there's life left in the mainframe yet!

Editor's Comments: This excellent report by Syncsort highlights that while there is some shrinkage in the market the mainframe is not going away. There is however a persistent skills issue associated with the mainframe. Baby boomers are retiring and many of these systems are not well documented. CIO's at mainframe shops can do nothing or reduce the risk with a comprehensive talent strategy.


Syncsort's annual mainframe survey shows that while the mainframe might be getting on a bit, the technology is still core for many businesses.

The conventional wisdom says that the days of the mainframe are numbered, but it just might be that a new generation of apps will breathe new life into it.

A state-of-the-mainframe survey by Syncsort shows that the mainframe market as ever is experiencing some shrinkage, but also that there are some grounds for optimism. Syncsort has been working on mainframes since 1968 and has customers in more than 85 countries. ZDNet spoke to Syncsort's chief product officer, David Hodgson.

What were the main findings from your mainframe survey?

There were two sides to the survey. One was to have a general understanding of where the users thought the mainframe's place was in their current thinking, and the second was to get a better understanding of how they were using their mainframes for analytics.

According to the survey, as far as mainframe people are concerned, they're not going anywhere. Over 70 percent saw it as critical to their business for the large-scale transaction processing that they were doing.

The lesson is that for those people who are still using mainframes, they are critical to their business.

We do see a few cancellations. With such a big penetration of our Sort product, we have quite a good feel of the market the whole time and some of the smaller customers are cancelling. That's mainly because they have moved off the mainframe.

Right now, it's got down to the very smallest VSE shops. I think all the cancellations are in VSE. And then you see a smattering -- 19 percent -- saying that they are going to get off in two to five years, and 10 percent saying six to ten years. But talking to customers on a regular basis, they say that these days it is hard to get even a three-year plan together because things change so quickly.

These days the accent is on flexibility so how does this change things?

This comes under the heading of, what are people doing to modernise their back-end processing?I think there are two factors here. If you look at the old model where people had their systems of reference and systems of engagement, you probably don't want a lot of change in systems of reference. You do want to be actively changing and adapting to new needs in your systems of engagement.What that means is that with your systems of reference you want to be flexible enough that you have the systems to get at the data and get at the transaction processing. You have to be flexible enough around your systems of engagement and I think people have cracked that nut.Image: SyncsortEven around CICS systems, there are a number of ways for you to put APIs on the front of those. Once you have done that, then you can do your mobile apps and your people won't even be aware that it is a mainframe on the back-end. The important thing is the API, and with this whole move to wrap things in APIs nowadays -- and remember you can run Java in z/OS now -- these new systems won't even be aware that it's a mainframe running the backend.What were the other key findings in the survey? Read entire article...

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