Mainframes Continue to Play Key Role in Data Centers, CA Survey Finds

A CA survey of IBM System z mainframe users, most of whom also run distributed computing environments, finds that the mainframes address key IT infrastructure concerns of IT professionals, such as security, reliability, management and efficiency. The survey is the latest move in CA's Mainframe 2.0 campaign, which touts the effectiveness of the big systems in the modern data center.

A survey of IT professionals conducted earlier in 2009 by CA indicates that many still value the reliability and security of mainframes, even at a time when distributed data center environments continue to grow.

System management, resilience, compliance and energy efficiency also were issues cited by the 103 respondents when talking about the ongoing appeal of IBM's System z mainframes, according to the CA study, released Aug. 20.

The survey is part of a larger message being pushed by CA about the advantages of mainframes not only for running legacy applications but also for more modern workloads. Under its Mainframe 2.0 initiative, CA has upgraded more than 140 of its mainframe management applications and enhanced the compliance capabilities of the System z mainframes.

Most recently, CA on Aug. 11 announced new releases of its application testing tools for mainframe programmers.

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CA is one of a number of vendors-including IBM, Unisys and BMC Software-pushing the mainframe as a key player in modern data centers where reliability, security, management and energy efficiency are top issues.

"The mainframe is uniquely suited to the new challenges that IT organizations are facing as they are tasked with delivering more services to more users without being given proportionally increased resources," Vince Re, senior vice president of innovation in CA's Mainframe Business Unit, said in a statement.

A previous CA survey found that businesses are continuing to invest in running Linux on System z mainframes.

The Aug. 20 survey was addressed to IT professionals whose organizations were running IBM mainframes. Ninety-five percent of respondents said they also were running distributed computing environments. Respondents said the distributed environments took up 56 percent of their companies' hardware and software budgets, with mainframes taking up 38 percent.

Cloud computing environments took 6 percent.

In other responses, 97 percent said at least some of their distributed environments would fail if the mainframe were unavailable, and 76 percent said managing the large number of servers in their distributed environments was becoming a cost concern. About 67 percent said running their applications on a single mainframe was becoming a more attractive option as their distributed environments grew.

Floor space was an issue raised by the respondents, 81 percent of whom said limited floor space was another reason for looking to run their applications on a single mainframe rather than on a host of smaller servers.

IBM has seen continued interest in the mainframe, and has aggressively enhanced the System z portfolio to make the systems more cost-effective and able to run modern workloads, including Linux applications.

However, like most of the IT industry, IBM's mainframe business has been hit by the global recession. In the first quarter, while IBM saw System z revenues drop 19 percent from the previous year, the total number of mips shipped jumped 18 percent.

However, in the second quarter, revenues not only dropped 39 percent, but mips also fell, by 20 percent.

On Aug. 14, IBM unveiled its System z Solution Edition Series, which offers seven integrated hardware, software and packages, expanding the workloads the mainframes can handle to include data warehousing, risk mitigation and disaster recovery. The packages also are designed to make the mainframe more cost-competitive with distributed environments.

IBM also rolled out new programs to lure customers of Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems to System z mainframes.