Why the Mainframe Needs to Become More Mainstream

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Why the Mainframe Needs to Become More Mainstream

The mainframe remains heavily entrenched in enterprise IT. Ninety-six percent of banks around the world continue to run mainframes, as well as 71 percent of global Fortune 500 organizations, according to IBM research. Collectively, these companies process a daily workload of 30 billion transactions. According to a recent CIO survey, 78 percent view the mainframe as more secure than other systems. In addition, IBM’s z13 mainframe offers 300 percent more memory and 100 percent more bandwidth than traditional servers. Given these strengths, the mainframe can offer a competitive advantage, but its associated culture, tools and processes must evolve for modern-day computing. In this eWEEK slide show, using industry information from Compuware, we offer tips to creating a “post-modern mainframe.”

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Don't Let Mainframe Challenges Scare You

To date, the culture, tools and process surrounding the mainframe have prevented it from being easily included in multiplatform, agile DevOps environments. This is a challenge when developing transactional applications that span multiple platforms and touch the mainframe at the back end. If working on the mainframe is unnecessarily cumbersome, this can slow development teams.

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Lack of Familiarity Can Be a Risk

Lack of mainframe familiarity also can expose businesses to significant risk as many mainframe experts in the Baby Boomer generation reach retirement. But the mainframe can be reinvented as a platform for innovation and integrated into the broader computing architecture; IT admins have to buy into it first.

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First, Make It Accessible for All Developers

A good first step is to do away with the mainframe development environment based on antiquated green screens and replace it with an intuitive, modern development environment.  Organizations also need to provide access to next-gen analysis and testing tools that allow mainframe data and applications to be worked on with the same ease and convenience as other platforms and languages, such as Java.

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Agile-Enable the Mainframe

DevOps and agile approaches emphasize speed and quality of software rollouts above all else, and the mainframe must keep up. New tools support convergence between agile DevOps and the mainframe, including integrations that allow the mainframe to be included in cross-DevOps efforts. By including the mainframe in this way, enterprises can improve development throughput, achieve agility across all platforms and better respond to new digital requirements.

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Incorporate the Mainframe Into Modern APM

Many customer-facing web and mobile apps connect with a mainframe back end, necessitating high performance (speed, availability) for mainframe systems and databases. In fact, a 2016 Forrester study found that 96 percent of new business initiatives involve the mainframe. Today, application performance management (APM) vendors that monitor web/mobile application performance are teaming up with mainframe ISVs to identify and resolve performance issues that surface with end users but are occurring at the mainframe database level.

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Optimize Security

The mainframe is the most intrinsically secure platform, since it focuses solely on transaction processing and is isolated from most network traffic. However, like all platforms, the mainframe is susceptible to insider threats, especially since they house critical data. Approximately 80 percent of corporate data worldwide continues to reside on mainframes. Auditing solutions that watch user behavior have been upgraded to capture more detailed information through full visibility into mainframe session activity and now integrate with SIEM solutions for further analysis.

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Cost Controls

Rubin Research has found mainframes to be more cost-effective than distributed systems, which tend to require more resources in the longer term. However, there are still opportunities for cost optimization on the mainframe, because mainframe license costs (MLCs) can grow if not carefully managed. New integrations enable intelligent cost management on the mainframe by allowing organizations to balance workloads in a manner that defers or constrains low-priority jobs and preserves CPU for critical workloads.

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Mainframe computers continue to play a central role in the daily operations of most of the world's largest corporations. The tips and developments described above can help organizations mainstream the mainframe so that they can use and preserve the benefits of these investments while also enabling a smoother knowledge transition to newer generations of developers, maximizing performance and security, and reducing costs.

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