The CTO at a large financial institution recently told me, “the mainframe is strategic for our company” and “we are growing the capability of our IBM mainframe.” A major insurance company that I work with closely has a well-understood policy that DB2 for z/OS is the default data store for all new applications across the entire company.
What do these companies know that others don’t? What makes them so bullish on the IBM mainframe? It’s simple, really — they understand the mainframe and leverage this understanding to help their organizations exceed their technical and business objectives.
As we all know, mainframes as large servers can pretty much do it all, but there is still a bias in some corners against what I think is the strongest platform ever built for large organizations that rely on massive amounts of data. Part of the problem is that some organizations aren’t opening up new technologies to their mainframe systems, making it necessary for application development teams to look elsewhere. Over time this erodes the value of their mainframe investment, not because Big Iron can’t handle mobile and big data and cloud-based projects, but because these exciting new capabilities aren’t always embraced on the mainframe.
Not surprisingly, in these environments, the mainframe is used less and less for new projects—and when this happens, the mainframe eventually becomes the old system of record. Over time, the level of mainframe experience in the company starts to dwindle, and at some point conversations about getting rid of the mainframe begin. I’ve seen this movie too many times, and it’s one of the major reasons why organizations start looking around at other options.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way. Mainframe system administrators need to start evangelizing for the technologies, languages, APIs and programming models that their application teams want to use, and loudly proclaim, “The mainframe can do this!”
Scripting languages are here to stay. Dynamic SQL is here to stay. Object oriented programming is here to stay—and by the way, the IBM mainframe is arguably the best Java platform that the world has ever seen! Oh, these RESTful and JSON interfaces? They are relevant and powerful tools for any industry. The strongest companies leveraging their mainframes today are embracing these technologies in support of cloud, analytics, mobile and social projects. Mainframe engineers know this—but they need to spread the word within their own organizations and become mainframe heroes.
Bryan Smith focuses on IBM mainframe solutions at Rocket Software, a global software company that has developed mainframe tools and solutions for the world’s leading businesses for 24 years.