Mainframes are still in high demand and continue to be critical to modern IT strategies because of their power, security and reliability.
The 2020 Mainframe Market Pulse Survey, conducted by Forrester and commissioned by Deloitte Consulting, dives into the role of the mainframe as a strategic component to hybrid cloud environments. Forrester interviewed 261 business and IT leaders to gather and refine data on current perceptions about the mainframe’s place in the enterprise and subsequent plans for its role in future IT strategies.
Terri Cobb, vice president of alliances at Deloitte, and Bob Miller, solution architect and legacy transformation lead of IBM alliance at Deloitte, answered a few questions regarding the survey and the future of mainframes.
Terri and Bob are two of our outstanding keynote speakers presenting at Open Mainframe Virtual Summit. During their keynote session, they will share some interesting findings from the survey and discuss why mainframes have a critical role to play in hybrid cloud strategies.
Q: Why is the mainframe still relevant today?
Bob: There are three key reasons mainframes continue to remain relevant today: reliability, performance and security. Enterprise organizations have found that other technologies can’t compare to the mainframe in three areas—and they are imperative to an enterprise’s critical operations.
- Reliability: Due to its design, mainframe failures are rare. In fact, downtime (MTBF) is measured in years and decades—not hours and minutes. When failures do happen, disaster recovery is instant, and users typically don’t know a problem occurred. Distributed platform failures are more frequent than mainframe failures and are usually addressed by purchasing more servers than are required. When one server fails, another can be substituted in using (software) scripts—a process that takes about 15 minutes to accomplish. This includes managing databases, so they are as close to current as possible; something the mainframe does not have to do.
- Performance: Outside of high-performance computing (HPC) servers, the mainframe has the fastest and most powerful processors in a commercially available server. It’s also able to process transactions quickly, making it the best TPR system in the world.
- Security: Since its initial design, the mainframe has proven over time to be the most secure platform in the world. This is one of the biggest reasons that governments use it in their operations. Banks, who rely on security of the data they hold, have also been very clear that they will not give up their mainframes in favor of alternate architectures because of the security the mainframe provides.
Terri: I agree with Bob that reliability, performance and security are key drivers for the mainframe’s relevance in today’s IT architectures. The vulnerability landscape is constantly changing, and organizations can be attacked across their systems. Add to that concerns around data privacy and regulations and you’ve got a full plate. As seen in our survey, 80% of respondents are focused on modernizing mainframe toolsets in an effort to identify and prevent data breaches, and 73% are increasing their security footprint.
Data protection and security are so critical, and mainframes remain one of the most secure and powerful platforms available when the right controls are in place. Take banking as an example: Personal financial information has become one of the most protected and heavily regulated types of data in the world. So much so that security measures and compliance programs to protect it consume the largest percentage of a financial institution’s IT budget.
Q: What does the future of the mainframe look like?
Bob: Despite being around for more than half a century, the future of mainframes has never looked stronger. Our Mainframe Market Pulse Survey found that 74% of respondents believe the mainframe has long-term viability as a strategic platform for [their] organization. Additionally, 91% identified expanding their mainframe footprints as a moderate or critical priority in the next 12 months. Given these responses, mainframes are here to stay and may see an increase in usage.
Overall, security is still the best with a mainframe, and it offers a good total cost of ownership compared to distributed servers. IBM also continues to add “modern technologies” to its line of Z series mainframes: AI, machine learning, blockchain, IoT, and more. Given the growth of data and that the mainframe is the keeper of most of the data in the world, it has a strong future as the (secure) repository of choice.
Terri: Bob mentioned that IBM is adding modern technologies to its mainframes. This is really important as companies leverage AI and machine learning to convert data from every transaction into real-time, actionable insights.
Going back to banking, there’s certainly a need to execute large volumes of transactions. But financial institutions also need deep insights about customer needs, preferences, and intentions to compete effectively, along with speed and agility in sharing and taking action on them. That’s easier said than done when data is constantly changing. With the ability to analyze data directly on the mainframe, you can get those near real-time insights and action, making the mainframe an important participant in the AI/ML revolution.
Q: Could you tell us a little bit about Deloitte’s 2020 Mainframe Market Pulse Survey? What would you say is one of the most surprising findings from the report?
Terri: There’s so much buzz in the marketplace around migrating to cloud. And that made us wonder where mainframes stand in relation to technology priorities for enterprises. It seemed to be a common notion that mainframes were a thing of the past, but our experience told us otherwise.
To better understand the market, we enlisted Forrester Consulting to conduct a survey of US-based business and IT leaders across industries to understand their perspective and use for mainframes. What we found was that mainframes aren’t on the way out. In fact, interest and investment appear to be on the rise with 72% of respondents planning to upgrade their mainframes in the next three years. Why? They want to address three key areas: security, storage and software. Those three pillars continue to be a top priority for business leaders across industries, validating the role of legacy systems in hybrid IT strategies.
We learned that cloud is an imperative to these leaders, but they also realize not all workloads are ideal for cloud and they lack the right talent to support mainframe and legacy transformation goals. This part of the study stood out to me because it showed that enterprise organizations understand the value of both mainframes and cloud, but they don’t know where to start. For us at Deloitte, our priority is helping organizations determine the best model for their business and bring it to life—which typically involves a hybrid architecture that ties in core, cloud and edge environments.
Another finding that stood out was that 93% of respondents indicated it is “moderately” to “extremely challenging” to acquire the right mainframe resources and skills. The survey showed us mainframes are here to stay, but without the proper staffing and skilling we could soon experience a larger issue of maintaining and updating them. This could pose significant setbacks for organizations that depend on the security, reliability and performance of mainframes for critical operations—now and in the future.
Q: What can we expect from your upcoming keynote session at Open Mainframe Virtual Summit?
Bob: The session will provide a deeper understanding of what the survey showed, highlighting how companies view their mainframe, the challenges they face and their priorities for the near-term. We also discuss the benefits of stepping back to look at what the business needs and why before pursuing an IT strategy that may not meet their priorities.
To take a deeper dive into the survey results and to learn more about the mainframe, attend Terri and Bob’s session at Open Mainframe Virtual Summit on Feb. 11. To check out the full agenda or to register for free, visit the Open Mainframe website.