Sunday, 24 November 2013

Vivat mainframe

“Vivat Rex” is what the populace was meant to shout when a new king of England was crowned. It means “long live the king”. I think that we’ve been able to shout, “long live the mainframe” for a long time now, and recent announcements mean that we can continue to do so.

Mainframes, and I don’t need to tell you this, have been around for a long time now and have faced and overcome all the technical and business challenges that have been thrown at them in that time. And older mainframers can seem somewhat jaundiced when their younger colleagues get over-enthusiastic about some new technology.

We’ve looked at client-server technology and thought how similar it is to dumb terminals logging onto a mainframe. We’ve looked at cloud computing and thought how similar that is to terminals connecting to a mainframe in a different part of the world. But there’s much more to the mainframe than a simple ‘seen it, done it’ attitude. The mainframe is also able to absorb new technologies and make them its own.

We’ve looked recently at Hadoop – there are distributions from Hortonworks, Cloudera, Apache, and IBM (and many others). But you can run Big Data on your mainframe, and a number of mainframe software vendors have recently produced software that connects to Big Data from z/OS. It’s becoming integrated. So long live the mainframe with Big Data.

We’ve also, in this blog, looked at ways that BYOD – personal devices – can be used to access mainframe data, usually through browsers. And many of IBM’s younger presenters at GSE recently were talking about more Windows-like interfaces to mainframe information. Think of it – it’s like 1970 all over again – mainframes in the hands of 20-year-olds! So long live the mainframe with youthful staff and modern-looking interfaces.

We know there are other computing platforms out there, and IBM over the past few years has produced hybrid hardware that contains a mainframe and blades for running these other platforms. This summer’s zBC12 (Business Class) followed last year’s announcement of the zEC12 (Enterprise Class). And 2011 saw the z114, and 2010 gave us the z196. So long live the mainframe and its ability to embrace other platforms. (And I haven’t even mentioned how successfully you can run Linux on a mainframe.)

And thinking about mainframes embracing other technologies, CA has just announced the general availability of technology designed, they say, to help customers drive down the cost of storing data processed on IBM System z by backing up the data and archiving it to the cloud.

What that means is by using CA Cloud Storage for System z and the Riverbed Whitewater appliance, customers can back up System z storage data to Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), a storage infrastructure designed for mission-critical and primary data storage, or to Amazon Glacier, an extremely low-cost storage service for which retrieval times of several hours are suitable. Both services are highly secure and scalable and designed to be durable. In addition, disaster recovery readiness is improved and AWS cloud storage is accessed without changing the existing back-up infrastructure.
So, yet again, we can say, long live the mainframe for the way it’s embracing cloud computing.

As a side note: Amazon has Amazon Elastic MapReduce (EMR), which uses Hadoop to provide Web services.

IBM has taken over StoredIQ, Star Analytics, and The Now Factory for Big Data Analytics or Business Analytics. And it took over SoftLayer Technologies for its cloud computing infrastructure. It’s making sure it has its hands on the tools and the people who are developing these newer technologies.

My conclusion is that there are new problems that need to be solved. And there are new technologies available to solve them. But so often those exciting new things are very similar to things that we mainframers have dealt with before. And where they seem different, mainframe environments are able to work with them and bring them into the fold.

There’s really no danger that mainframes are going away anytime soon. So, we’re very safe in saying, “vivat mainframe”.

On a completely different topic...
Please complete the mainframe users’ survey at And if you’re a vendor, get your free entry in the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2014 by completing the form at

No comments: