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The Mainframe Isn’t Dead, but It Still Needs Protection

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:32 PM

How many times have we heard the mantra, “The mainframe is dead?” Since the rise of other platforms, IT “seers” have predicted the imminent demise of the mainframe. And yet, mainframes continue to enjoy a robust and vital role in data center operations. 

With that in mind, we can’t get complacent. Our favorite platform is still under attack—to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Only when you understand the concerns and assumptions people have about the platform can you begin to address and counter them. You can make a difference. 

Below are some key issues in the mainframe world, along with tips on how to solve them:

Issue: Mainframers are retiring and there isn’t a stream of young people vying to replace them.
Solution: We know better. Millennials already work at your company; they simply need mentoring and support to see the value of getting up to speed on a platform that’s going to be a job mecca, sated with opportunity. Small supply and large demand lead to competitive salaries. But some older mainframers strew fear in their wake. What young person wants to contemplate a 20-year ramp-up to success? Instead, ask yourself: what can you do to attract people to this great career path and help them be successful quickly?

Issue: Mainframes are old technology. We’re a modern company.
Solution: This assumption can be countered by updating management with the latest news about the platform. For example, when other platforms are hacked, customer data gets exposed, leading to expensive settlements. Mainframes, on the other hand, are more securable even as they are the gateway to much of your most valuable data. IBM Machine Learning for z/OS is available on the mainframe, right where you most need it, alongside the data business people need to analyze. 

Issue: Mainframes are expensive.
Solution: While a mainframe is more costly than a single blade server, look what it can do. A Boeing 777 is more costly than a BMW, but it carries people and freight more cost-effectively and efficiently than a car. Not only can you run almost any workload on a mainframe; it takes fewer support people relative to the work performed on it, the footprint is relatively small and the power and environmentals compare favorably to other platforms. And software? IBM offers loads of ways to help you reduce software costs (e.g., variable workload license charge, zIIPs, etc.) to ensure a superior value proposition. Make the case.

Issue: Mainframes limit the company’s ability to modernize.
Solution: This assertion has some truth to it, but it’s also a challenge you can solve. There’s no reason that websites and apps can’t run on mainframes. But in some cases, application software needs to be revisited to ensure the long-term future of the platform.

In future blogs in this series, we’ll talk about modernization and how you can achieve it, as well has highlighting the risks of the mainframe "alternatives" to help you build a robust case to management.

We can do this. We have to do this. Let’s make sure that people know how the mainframe’s plethora of benefits will lead them to a successful future.

Denise P. Kalm is chief innovator of Kalm Kreative Inc.
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