IBM’s latest system, the IBM z13
mainframe, which represents five years of development and a $1 billion investment, is designed specifically to handle the increasing volume of mobile transactions. As the mainframe enters its 51st year, most experts acknowledge it must wholeheartedly embrace mobile and Web technologies to remain relevant. The platform is already making significant progress in these areas, according to a recent Macro 4 survey conducted ahead of the z13 launch.
In our poll of 60 mainframe users at the Guide Share Europe U.K. Conference
, 72 percent revealed that their organizations’ mainframes now support Web or mobile applications. A further 8 percent are expecting their mainframes to do so within the next three years.
These findings suggest that the initiatives and solutions that IBM has launched to help mainframe users maximize the mobile opportunity even before the z13 are working. For example, the IBM System z Solution for Mobile Computing
, which was introduced last year, is designed to help enterprises extend the development and deployment of mobile applications and data at a competitive cost and high quality of service. It also includes a flexible pricing model for mobile mainframe clients, allowing them to only pay for the capacity they use and enabling a 60 percent reduction in the processor capacity reported for mobile transactions.
Cost is one of the areas that many Big Iron users know they need to be cautious about managing as they take on mobile applications. 38 percent of users in the survey said they are concerned about the potential for higher mainframe usage costs or CPU upgrade charges due to the extra workload from supporting mobile and Web applications. At the same time, 28 percent are worried about the possibility of slower response times for end users due to the increase in mainframe transaction processing in these areas.
There is no doubt that mobile and Web applications significantly increase the mainframe workload. Think of banking customers’ checking account balances online, or the huge volume of insurance quotes being generated by financial services websites.
Often, the mainframe applications at the back end are the same ones that were originally created to process transactions for internal company departments. So processes that created limited transaction volumes when only used by company employees can see massive increases in workload as use behind an online interface explodes. This increase in transaction volumes could highlight and expose inefficiencies in the way that applications run and use processing power—inefficiencies which might not have been such a problem at lower transaction volumes.
It's up to systems management teams to ensure applications are using mainframe CPU efficiently, both to maintain service levels and to keep costs in check. One of the solutions at their disposal is mainframe application performance management—also known as performance tuning. This can help to identify and correct application coding errors and inefficiencies in order to deliver faster responses and better service levels. More efficient code should also result in the same workload being handled using less processing power, helping to minimize usage-based software licensing charges and reduce the pressure to invest in additional processing capacity.
Supporting mobile and online applications is essential for the long-term future of the mainframe platform. However, mainframe shops must make use of solutions such as performance tuning to maintain high service levels and control costs as they incorporate these more demanding workloads.
Keith Banham has worked in IT for more than 30 years and is the R&D manager at Macro 4, responsible for the company's mainframe suite of products. Keith started as an Assembler programmer at a major bank and during his 28 years at Macro 4 has worked on many of the company’s solutions for application lifecycle management, application performance management, document management and session management. Part of his current role is the modernization of these solutions by building Web, Eclipse and mobile interfaces, as well as the modernization of Macro 4’s internal mainframe development environments.