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October 8, 2010

Heap big iron sends heap big smoke signal

This isn't one of those 'the mainframe isn't dead yet' stories - though you may disagree at first glance...

By Cbr Rolling Blog

This isn’t one of those ‘the mainframe isn’t dead yet’ stories – though you may disagree at first glance. Why? Because UK organisations are convinced mainframes are an essential component of their cloud computing strategy – and three quarters believe Big Iron will have a central role in any cloud initiative.

That at least is the takeaway from a survey of 300 IT leaders across Europe conducted by the company we now call CA Technologies (Computer Associates, or CA, as was, of course). Topline findings: 94% of UK respondents agree with a comment made to them that the mainframe remains important to their company’s overall ICT strategy; 82% of respondents (across the whole data sample, so this is more than just the UK) intend to use the mainframe going forward either as much as or more than today. (They may struggle a bit there, as another datum is that staffing issues are still a serious issue for more than half of the companies who replied to the pollsters – 66% say a greying host workforce and difficulty in hiring new staff are growing challenges.)

The survey is being positioned by CA as underlining the mainframe’s "agility to perform in new IT models such as cloud computing and its ongoing durability as a critical data centre platform for decades to come". Given that 81% of Brits say the mainframe is already a cloud platform for them and that 54% agree with an assertion that cloud will "sustain or extend" the mainframe era, then the supplier may have a point.

"This [research] provides indisputable evidence of the mainframe’s agility to perform in new IT models such as cloud and on-going durability as a critical data centre platform for decades to come," comments Dayton Semerjian, who runs the firm’s mainframe business.

Anyone who’s worked with the Tin Gods Who Live In The Glass House will probably agree that their reliability, server consolidation attractiveness (pour lots of servers into it by virtualisation) and a general Green IT message (as it’s just one big box to cool, not multiple pizza stacks) – as identified in this particular survey as plus factors by 51, 46 and 40% of the sample respectively – remains very strong attractors to many customers.

But cloud-y Mainframes? Well, hmm. That has to be allowed as a bit of a new one – and some of us did snigger a while back when someone tried to sell us the idea of COBOL in the Cloud…

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Then reality sets in and of course – it makes sense, doesn’t it? Just as cloud means, ultimately, ‘it doesn’t matter where the IT runs – that’s just geography,’ a revivified mainframe strategy would just as equally be about ‘it doesn’t matter if it’s one box or many acting as one – it’s still one logical server, right?’

You may or may not disagree. Maybe you’re one of the greybeards shuffling in and out of the computer room. We’ll not ask you who the Prime Minister is today – but we would like you to keep on making that nice big computer thing work for us, please.

If you are not wholly convinced, delve into the data yourself by going here.

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