Mainframes are still going strong with customers that operate such 'big iron' systems, according to a survey to be published next week by management firm BMC. The company found that customers are looking to modernise applications and make more efficient use of their mainframes in preparation for an expected recovery in the economic situation.
BMC's annual worldwide survey of mainframe users found that the top priorities for customers are application modernisation, followed by elimination of unplanned outage events and server virtualisation. Many customers are now looking to reduce the ongoing growth in their mainframe capacity and increase cost efficiencies.
"The takeaway is that people generally still feel good about the mainframe. Their reliability, availability and security are still serving customers well," said Bill Miller, president of BMC's Mainframe Service Management unit.
However, the mainframe world is still largely restricted to large organisations that have probably been operating their systems for a long time.
"We're not seeing a ton of brand new mainframe shops," conceded Miller, "but then we're not seeing too many people turn away from them either, because they're still doing a good job."
Ovum analyst Roy Illsley agreed, saying that the mainframe is likely to still be with us for some time to come.
"If you want to run a high-compute intensive workload, mainframes have a low management overhead, so they are relatively cheap to run, and are very secure," he said.
The picture that emerges is of the mainframe still holding its own in transaction-oriented applications that involve large volumes of data, with customers spread across industries such as banking and insurance, telecommunications, manufacturing and healthcare, as well as government agencies.
But there are changes happening. BMC's survey found increasing use of Linux, for example.
"IBM is pushing z/Linux and we're finally seeing a big upswing in interest. Some customers are even using their entire mainframe as one giant Linux box," said Miller.
Illsley went further, saying, "The fact that mainframes can run Linux has breathed a bit of new life into this sector."
Customers are also looking for ways to optimise workloads, so as to minimise the growth in mainframe MIPS (millions of instructions per second) used.
BMC said it is helping customers by tuning DB2 applications, which tend to be the most resource-intensive workloads running.
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