Is it me or does there seem to a very positive feeling around the mainframe platform right now? Finally there seems to be a consensus that the mainframe is a technology that is here to stay. It is the beating heart at the center of business operations for many of the world's largest enterprises. It has proven speed and resiliency. And Web and Eclipse interfaces are making it more appealing to a new generation of users and developers. But don't just take my word for it. Here are five reasons why people are getting excited about the mainframe.
Worldwide Sales of IBM Mainframes Are Up
According to research group IDC, the IBM mainframe running z/OS experienced its third consecutive quarter of growth, increasing revenue 9.9 percent year over year to $1.2 billion and representing 9.8 percent of all server revenue in the second quarter of 2013¹. In February 2013 IBM² revealed it had added around 180 new mainframe customers in the previous two years. One interesting area has been the big mainframe growth opportunity in China. The booming Chinese middle classes are using more banking and telecommunications services–making the region an ideal candidate for mainframes because they require more computing power.
COBOL Applications Get More Web Friendly
Earlier this year, IBM announced enhancements to the way the COBOL programming language runs on System z mainframes. In fact, the latest release of IBM Enterprise COBOL for z/OS, the COBOL compiler for z/OS, makes COBOL applications more Web friendly and helps them perform better.
Tests conducted by IBM show that COBOL applications using the compiler can display performance improvements of 10 to 20 percent. The compiler allows COBOL software to more easily swap information with websites and apps thanks to changes in the parsing of XML, the markup language commonly used to share information over the Web. And because it is interoperable with Java 7, the compiler also makes it easier to integrate COBOL software with new Web applications.
That will be welcome news to the organizations that, according to a recent IBM estimate, are currently running more than 200 billion lines of COBOL code, across industries such as banking, insurance and retail³.
The IBM zEnterprise–the Result of $1 Billion of R&D
Last summer IBM released the zEnterprise EC12–labeled the most powerful and technologically advanced mainframe ever and the result of an investment of more than $1 billion in research and development. The zEC12 boosts performance using the world’s fastest commercial processor, running at 5.5 GHz, as well as new solid state memory technology. It supports private cloud environments by consolidating Linux workloads.
The zEC12 extends security using a tamper-resistant cryptographic co-processor called Crypto Express4S that provides privacy for transactions and sensitive data used by public sector clients for applications such as ID cards. The product also includes internal analytics to monitor its own system health.
The zBC12–a Mainframe for Businesses of All Sizes
The IBM zEnterprise Business Class zBC12 system, launched this summer, is designed to appeal to business of all sizes. A remote descendant of the huge systems of the past that used to fill a whole room, the zBC12 squeezes into a single cabinet, but has been described as being “powerful enough to replace a whole rack full of standard servers, with much greater availability and reliability.” It enables customers to start small and scale up as required, with prices starting at $75,000.
The zBC12 is likely to become the entry point to using the System z platform or act as a regional server or failover system for critical workloads running on larger zEnterprise systems. It has similar capabilities to the zEC12 described above, but with a maximum memory of 496 GB (compared to the zEC12's 3 TB maximum), and more limited connectivity options.
New z/OS Supports Highly Scalable Workloads
At the start of October, IBM released the new z/OS 2.1. IBM has said that z/OS 2.1 is going to set the groundwork for the next tier of mainframe computing. And that statement is backed up by a whole range of new enhancements and capabilities that will allow enterprises to manage highly scalable workloads–including private clouds.
These announcements and developments signal that that the mainframe is still at the heart of IT strategy in many organizations. In fact, with the Web and mobile revolution fuelling huge increases in the volume of information that needs to be processed, it looks like the sheer computing power, security and resilience of the mainframe could actually spark resurgence in demand.
Philip Mann is Principal Consultant at mainframe performance management expert, Macro 4. Philip has been working with IBM mainframes for in excess of 30 years, including over 10 years with Macro 4, where application performance tuning is one of his major interests.