Saturday, 20 November 2010

Cloud and the future of mainframes

CA Technologies released a survey on Wednesday entitled “Mainframe as a Mainstay”. The survey was conducted on 200 senior level US-based mainframe executives by Decipher Research. Amongst the results was the information that 73% of respondents confirmed that the mainframe is – or will be – part of their organization’s cloud computing strategy. The question posed at CA’s recent webinar was whether that result came as a surprise.

Now, as you may know, I’m a big fan of cloud computing. In fact, I’ve an article about cloud computing and IMS in the current issue of zJournal. It struck me that these results were very much in line with the recent results, also published by CA, from a survey carried out by Vanson Bourne, a market research company based in the UK. They conducted more than 300 interviews during August with European IT decision makers. Their report was called “Mainframe - The Ultimate Cloud Platform?”. They found a slightly higher figure of 79% of organisations believing the mainframe is an essential component of their cloud computing strategy. The also found 70% of respondents agreeing that cloud computing will sustain or extend the mainframe environment.

On the other hand, only 10 per cent of mainframe sites in BMC’s survey in October said that using their System z machines to run cloud computing or SaaS applications was an important priority for them in the coming year. Quite a difference! Similarly, my own straw poll at the Guide Share Europe conference at the beginning of November, in an IMS session, found that no-one seemed interested in cloud computing. I think that reflects real-life economics in that they were very much focused on what was available now that would make the business run better and their lives easier – how they could do more with less.

I think what we’re seeing is a difference between the attitude of mainframe staff, who want to get the job done with the tools available now and the pressure of fewer staff etc, and senior managers who are looking more strategically towards the next step.

The Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2011 user survey has a couple of questions about cloud computing. It will be interesting to see the results from that. And, by-the-way, if you haven’t completed a survey yet, you can do so by going to

Among the survey’s other findings we see:
  • A majority (80%) responded they will be maintaining or increasing spend on mainframe staff in the next 12-18 months.
  • More than three-quarters (76%) will maintain or increase their investment in mainframe software during the next 12-18 months.
  • Nearly half of respondents (46%) are looking for industry leadership from vendors on the evolving role of the mainframe in the enterprise.
  • 61% of respondents don’t believe the IT industry does enough to promote mainframe career opportunities to recent graduates.
  • 35% believe that recent graduates are not as proficient in mainframe technology as their counterparts that entered the workforce 10-years ago.
  • 61% said that hiring either took much longer than expected, took long enough to negatively impact their IT operation or are still looking for talent after more than six months.

Picking up on the 35% of respondents who believe recent graduates are not as technology proficient as their counterparts that entered the workforce 10-years ago, webinar panellists were asked whether this was something they were seeing in the workforce.

I think the truth is that even the ancient Greeks felt that youngsters weren’t as good as they used to be! Certainly when I started working on mainframes, we were a mixed bag of youngsters, and many of those less capable or that-way-inclined left – leaving the enthusiasts and the highly technically-capable. I assume the criticism can always be applied. New people at any job just aren’t very good. And once they are quite good, they’re promoted to a different one.

We hear the mainframe referred to as a dinosaur – even though we know signs point in the opposite direction – in addition, the mainframe has a reputation as older technology with a middle-aged workforce, so the panellists were asked whether the fact that 52% of those surveyed cited Facebook and LinkedIn as the most effective recruiting tools came as a surprise.

My first response whenever a sentence includes the words mainframe and dinosaur is to point out that dinosaurs ruled the Earth for 160 million years. Humans have existed for say 200,000 years. Draw your own conclusions!

I’m not at all surprised that middle-aged people are using Facebook and LinkedIn and many other examples of social media. At the end of 2008, the answer may have been surprising, at the end of 2009 it may have surprised some people, but not at the end of 2010. These are IT people we’re talking about – of course they’re going to know what’s going on in the cyber world. I also imagine, next year, that figure will be much higher than 52%. Mainframers know about social networking. Look how many of them blog and are on Twitter.

You can find more information about the survey at

1 comment:

Marcel said...

I think that the whole discussion about CLOUD is about the following:
Nothing in IT ever goes away (well, it DOES, but after a looong time).
We have seen distributed systems come up and the use of the Mainframe grew because many of these apps needed access to Mainframe data. Then the ERP systems needed data that resided on the Mainframe and later the Web apps often still need data from the corporate databases.
And nw Cloud. Cloud apps will not operate in isolation, whether we run them in a private Cloud (Mainframe or distributed) or external, a Cloud app will be an important asset if it integrates with what we already own. And since the most valuable asset that makes companies competitive is their data, the mainframe will play a role here as well. To run "cloud" close to where a lot of that data is (on the Mainframe) makes sense. But it's like evrything else, a good IT decision is based on a lot of variable. And in some cases, the mainframe is simply the cheapest and most economical solution. If you own a mainframe, all you have to do is be open to the things a well managed mainframe can offer. And you'll find that it is a lot....
Read the surveys mentioned and you'll agree