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Mainframe Still Plays Key Role In Modern Data Center

A survey released by IT management software vendor BMC Software shows that mainframe computers still play a central role in large data centers and that businesses are using them to run new applications as well as legacy software. The 2011 Annual Mainframe Research Results show that enterprises are doing more work on mainframes because of the platform's advantages in security, reliability and cost-effectiveness, compared with the distributed client-server computing architecture.

Some of the capabilities of the System z mainframes fit nicely with the attributes of a cloud service, adds Mike Chuba, a research VP at Gartner. First off, mainframes can be scaled up and down as computing needs fluctuate, Chuba says, while they also, with up to an 80-way multiprocessor, have the capacity to handle large workloads.

"It can offer an advantage, both in speed and magnitude, over an implementation where one is required to add additional systems," he says. "The wide range of capacity within one box will require far fewer changes to handle change than for small servers." In addition, IBM mainframes offer "specialty engines," processors that sell for one-tenth the price of conventional processors, along with attractive software licensing fees, offering superior price-performance, Chuba says.

The BMC survey shows that enterprises with mainframes are also doing more compute cycles on them, measured in millions of instructions per second, or Mips. Sixty-seven percent of respondents attributed Mips growth in 2011 to growing transaction volumes, 65% cited overall growth in their business, and 31% cited moving new applications to their mainframes. "Considering the maturity of the platform, I consider that [31%] a very healthy number," says Robin Reddick, director of marketing for BMC’s Mainframe Service Management business unit.

The mainframe figures prominently into enterprise plans to modernize their software applications, Reddick says. Fifty percent of respondents list increasing the flexibility and agility of their core apps to meet changing business requirements as a priority, 37% mentioned re-architecting legacy apps, and 34% wanted to reduce the costs of application support. "We want to dispel the notion that application modernization means abandonment [of the mainframe], because it doesn’t," she said.

See more on this topic by subscribing to Network Computing Pro Reports The Data Mastery Imperative (subscription required).

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