Sunday, 2 December 2012

Computer futures

It’s December. It’s the time of the year when people are either reviewing what kind of a year it has been for them or predicting the future. I thought that this week I’d look forward to next year.

The big news for mainframe users is, of course, the price hike promised by IBM. If you go to you can see that from 1 July, the price of Flat Workload License Charges (FWLC) will increase.

According to Timothy Prickett Morgan writing for The Register: “IBM has a wide variety of monthly software pricing schemes for its System z mainframes, but the FLMC scheme is interesting in that it applies to all machines regardless of size or vintage equally and as you increase the capacity of the mainframe, the software fees stay flat.

“The bad thing about the FWLC scheme is that it does not have what IBM calls sub-capacity pricing, where customers use virtualization to isolate capacity on a particular mainframe and then only get charged for that software based on the MSUs consumed in that logical partition.” MSUs are Metered Service Units. It looks like the average price rise will be around the 10 percent level.

We probably won’t be making use of Application Performance Management Software as a Service (perhaps more easily written as APM SaaS). A survey conducted by IDG Research Services online among members of the CIO Forum on LinkedIn during August found that 61 percent of organizations have no plans to implement APM SaaS. But around a quarter (24 percent) already use APM SaaS in some capacity, with a mere 4 percent are using an APM SaaS vendor to monitor all their critical applications.

A CA Technologies survey found that 80 percent of Australian organizations are expected to face a shortage of mainframe skills in the future, with 57 percent already experiencing difficulties. The skills shortage issue is one that IBM, CA, and other companies are addressing with graduate and undergraduate programmes of study on mainframes.

The good news from the survey is that the mainframe is also playing an increasingly strategic role in managing the evolving needs of the enterprise. Again this comes as a surprise to no-one who knows about mainframes. With the growth in use of Linux on the mainframe, organizations can save lots of their budget. And the new hybrid models allow sites to get the best of all worlds.

The survey also found that 36 percent of respondents anticipate an increase in hardware spending in the next 12 to 18 months. Good news for hardware vendors. 44 percent of respondents are planning to increase their spending on mainframe-related services.

And while our focus is on mainframes, we all use laptops, tablets, and smartphones, so it’s interesting to see that Steven Sinofsky has left Microsoft. Who’s he, you say? Well, he was one of the driving forces behind Windows 8. Similarly, Scott Forstall has left Apple. Both were working to get laptops, tablets, and smartphones to use much the same interface and appear to the user to all have the same look-and-feel. Perhaps that touchscreen-style way of working will make its way to the interface to mainframe applications? Or perhaps in many ways it has in so far as remote access to mainframes can be achieved over the Internet from a browser on any platform.

I definitely predict more things will decide they are ‘cloud’ things. Mainframe users have been saying all along that they used to sit at a terminal and not worry where the application software lived, or where the data was stored – they just knew it was ‘out there’ and got on with their work. I’m sure this ‘cavalier’ attitude is one most users would like to be able to embrace. We’ve all had the problem with a file being on our office computer when we need it in the evening or weekend, or being on our home computer on Monday morning when we’re in the office. IT departments can sweat the security issues, but users will love the idea of it all (data and apps) being out there and available from anywhere.

Finally, if you’re a vendor, don’t forget to update your information in the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook 2013 – you can do it here. And if you’re a mainframe user, then help us by completing the user survey here.

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