Sunday, 17 October 2010

Mainframes and cloud computing

Picking up IT trade papers might make you think that the only real players in the cloud computing world were Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. Microsoft, with its ‘mega data centre’ in Dublin has been enthusiastic about its Office Web Apps and Facebook integration. Its Windows Azure is an environment for development, service hosting, and service management based on the cloud. It’s designed to allow developers to compute, host, scale, store, and also manage the Web apps they create. Google is working with VMware to develop a new operating system for the cloud, and plans to push the Web as a platform for enterprise-standard software development. Google now has a version of the Google App Engine for enterprise users. Amazon has its Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) – a Web service providing resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make Web-scale computing easier for developers. So where does that leave the mainframe?

To answer that question, Vanson Bourne, a market research company based in the UK undertook a survey that has now been published and is called Mainframe – The Ultimate Cloud Platform? Vanson Bourne conducted more than 300 interviews during August 2010 among IT decision makers. The sample comprised respondents in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Benelux, Scandinavia, Russia, Poland, Turkey, and the Czech Republic.

The survey results were published by CA Technologies, who revealed that 79 percent of IT organisations believe the mainframe is an essential component of their cloud computing strategy. They also found that 74 percent of respondents believe that the mainframe will have a role in any cloud computing initiative, with 70 percent agreeing that cloud computing will sustain or extend the mainframe environment.

Interestingly, and quite independently, the 2011 Arcati Mainframe Yearbook has two questions about cloud computing in its user survey. If you haven’t completed a survey yet, you can, by going to

According to CA’s Dayton Semerjian: “This survey provides indisputable evidence of the mainframe's agility to perform in new IT models such as cloud computing, and on-going durability as a critical data centre platform for decades to come”. Semerjian added: “CA Technologies is addressing these needs through its revolutionary mainframe management strategy, Mainframe 2.0”.

The survey also found that 82 percent of respondents stated that they intend to use the mainframe in the future either as much or more than today – which, sadly, implies that one in five sites are reducing their mainframe usage.

54 percent of respondents felt that the most pressing issues facing them in the next 12 months is an increased demand for training.

When asked why the mainframe is considered a valuable organisational asset, responses included reliability (55 percent), its position as an established technology (52 percent), platform cost-effectiveness (48 percent), and IT attitudes toward change (40 percent).
Linked to training is the problem of an increasingly ageing experienced workforce and a reduction in the number of experienced people available to work on mainframes. The study concluded that 44 percent of IT organisations are grappling with staffing issues created by the greying workforce and difficulty in hiring new staff, and they are concerned that these challenges will make the mainframe less viable in the future.

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