Mainframes making a comeback

Sentiment towards the mainframe may be turning. An annual worldwide survey of over 1,100 mainframe users by BMC Software shows that mainframe growth and retention plans for the platform have reached their highest levels for three years.

The research shows a jump in customer optimism on future investment in the platform, with 65% of respondents believing that their mainframe environments will grow and attract new workloads, compared to 52% in a similar survey in 2007. Regionally, respondents in Europe, Middle East and Africa stood out as predicting the highest growth and spending increases and thelargest rises in capacity.

The drivers for that growing investment were the classic strengths of the platform: high availability, centralised data serving, high transaction throughput requirements, and security strengths were the top four.

While 43% of respondents said that their overall mainframe environment is mature and operationally stable, nearly half the respondents said their mainframe operations were experiencing new challenges in the face of continued growth, with increased availability requirements and ongoing compliance pressures cited as the major adversities. Software is seen as the dominant cost of deploying and running a mainframe platform. Survey participants report that they spend 40% of their mainframe budget on packaged and bespoke code.

The survey also offered new insights into a platform often operated in isolation from the rest of IT. While two-thirds (63%) of those surveyed are currently operating separate mainframe and distributed systems, that group indicated that having shared tools and applications spanning both platforms is something they are planning for the future, particularly in the case of broad-based business service management disciplines such as service desk, change management and IT service management.

Cost reduction and productivity improvement remain at the top of the operational agenda, as users seek to increasingly automate the management of their environments across the business to minimise human error, improve compliance and deliver services faster.

Alongside that is a fundamental concern about energy costs, with 87% worrying about rising energy bills.

However, the mainframe is still in the firing line for many. Almost 60% said that they are planning to eliminate their mainframe environment within three years – although that was down from 74% in 2007.

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