Mainframes Essential to Cloud Computing: Survey

A survey of 300 IT organizations shows that mainframes remain mission-critical and are likely to be part of any cloud strategy.

According to the results of a recent survey, 79 percent of IT organizations consider the mainframe to be an essential component of their cloud computing strategy, said CA Technologies on Oct. 7.

If that wasn't surprising enough, 74 percent believe the mainframe will have some role in a cloud computing initiative, and 70 percent will sustain or extend their current mainframe environment into the cloud. Finally, 82 percent of respondents said they intend to use the mainframe in the future either as much or more than today.

Clearly, reports of the mainframe's imminent death have been greatly exaggerated.

"This survey provides indisputable evidence of the mainframe's agility to perform in new IT models such as cloud computing, and on-going durability as a critical data center platform for decades to come," said Dayton Semerjian, general manager of the mainframe business unit at CA Technologies.

While 40 percent of the responders told interviewers they stayed with the mainframe within their organization because it was easier to stay on the old platform than to change, most of the IT managers had better reasons. About 55 percent said they kept their mission-critical systems on the mainframe because of the platform's reliability and 52 percent called it an established technology. Finally, 48 percent felt staying on the legacy product was the most cost-effective.

Mainframes have been central to most enterprise processing since the beginning, and will continue to be so, according to CA, because mainframes work well as cloud computing platforms.

"Computer workers would say, 'That's my machine' or 'That's my virtual machine in the mainframe,'" said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive, at the London School of Economics on Oct. 5

The recent announcement of IBM's hybrid zEnterprise server adds some positive energy to the sector.

However, organizations are having trouble finding and retaining skilled employees, the survey found. The pool of skilled mainframe professionals is shrinking, and 44 percent of surveyed companies said they are "grappling" with staffing issues to manage and maintain their production systems. The most pressing issue for the next 12 months is training employees on using the systems, said 54 percent of the IT managers in the survey.

CA introduced Mainframe 2.0, a mainframe management strategy, almost two years ago to "attract and enable the next-generation mainframe technologist through the simplification, automation and modernization of mainframe management," said Semerjian. The company unveiled earlier this year Mainframe Chorus, a front end designed to create a more user-friendly front end to mainframe management for the younger IT crowd.

CA is also piloting a Mainframe Academy in Europe to train IT professionals.

More than 300 IT managers across 10 countries responded to the "Mainframe - The Ultimate Cloud Platform?" survey, CA said. The surveyed countries included United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Benelux, Scandinavia, Russia, Poland, Turkey and the Czech Republic.

There was significant degree of variation across countries regarding their mainframe usage. Companies in Russia were the most likely to include the mainframe as part of cloud computing, and the Czech Republic was the least, the survey found. U.K. companies were in the middle. Interestingly, Polish companies were more likely to extend their mainframe use, while the U.K. organizations were more likely to reduce their reliance on mainframes.