Monday, 20 October 2008

Mainframe myths

Enterprise System Journal ran an interesting article by CA’s Chris O'Malley (he’s executive vice president and general manager of the Mainframe Business Unit) called Seven Mainframe Myths No IT Decision-Maker Should Believe. It’s at, if you want to read the original.

Chris suggests that a number of myths about mainframes are in existence and decision-makers often make the wrong decisions because they believe the myths. He then sets about destroying the myths.

First to go is the myth that mainframes are merely relics from the past. He cites zIIP and zAAP specialty processors as well as IFL (Integrated Facility for Linux) as clear indicators that the mainframe provides sophisticated and advanced computing.

His second myth is that mainframes run only legacy applications. He suggests that the growth of SOA means that many mainframe applications and databases have been repurposed for running Web-based applications.

Next to go is the myth that mainframes don’t “play well” with distributed infrastructure. Chris points out that mainframes support industry standards such as TCP, XML, SOAP, and Web services. They also provide excellent scalability, reliability, and security. Plus, he point out, mainframes can be managed in a common manner with distributed, Web, and mobile infrastructures.

Myth 4 is that mainframes are expensive. Chris admits that the initial cost of a mainframe is high, the TCO is very good. He cites Gartner. Readers will, I’m sure remember Xephon’s Dinosaur Myth, published many years ago, that pointed out the total cost of ownership of a mainframe was better than mid-range machines and PCs.

In these “green” times, the next myth is that mainframes are energy-inefficient. IBM suggests that 1,500 x86 servers would be needed to provide the processing capacity of a z10 mainframe – yet the z10 would consume 85% less energy.

The sixth myth is that mainframes are an IBM monopoly. Well, it’s true that nowadays all the processors are made by IBM. However, when you’re looking for suppliers of DASD, tape, printers, communication devices, then the choice is huge. And in terms of software, yes you need IBM’s operating system, but after that, there are plenty of choices.

Myth 7 is the gerontocracy myth – only old people know how to run mainframes. While this is partly true, there’s now lots of software from lots of suppliers to make the running of a mainframe much easier, so those years of experience are now incorporated into the software.

The article is well-worth a read, and definitely worth pointing out to business managers when they are discussing their current IT environment and what they need for the future.

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