Survey: Mainframe Hardware, Software Spending to Grow in Next 5 Years

Even in the midst of a recession, the mainframe continues to be a strategic platform as many data center managers say they expect to increase spending on mainframe technology.

Even in the midst of a recession, the mainframe continues to be a strategic platform as many data center managers said they expect to increase spending on mainframe technology.

According to a recent survey by market research firm IDC, nearly one-half of respondents indicated they plan to increase annual spending on mainframe hardware and software. Indeed, rather than it being in spite of the economic uncertainty, perhaps it is because of the shaky economy that plans for increased investments in mainframe hardware and software represent a ray of light for enterprise data center managers who plan to leverage their existing mainframe deployments.

IDC's study involves the views of 300 end users on the role of the mainframe in the multi-platform data center, and provides particular provides insights into the current state of the IBM System z mainframe platform. It also looks at the fate of the mainframe in the future. The study identifies the emergence of a blended, or hybrid, approach to computing on the IBM System z platform.

"Customers are finding that new workloads, including Linux-based and Java-based workloads, can leverage the mainframe's built-in security and high levels of availability, by running them on mainframe specialty processors, such as the IFL, zIIP and zAAP processors," said Jean Bozman, research vice president with IDC's Enterprise Platforms Group, in a statement. "This pattern of adoption is placing software licensing costs on a lower price schedule for these new workloads than if they were running natively on the IBM System z hardware platform. In this way, customers are seeing a blended approach to deploying and maintaining workloads - carrying longtime workloads forward on System z, even as they bring new workloads onto the mainframe."

Changes in the storage environment are also expected, according to the study. "As more people access these systems, investments in capacity must be made to accommodate increased usage of existing applications," said Laura DuBois, program director for Storage Software at IDC, in a statement. "Additionally, usage growth will be driven by a range of new workloads coming onto the mainframe platform, and from applications that need access to mainframe-hosted databases." The importance of the mainframe and its mission-critical workloads to large businesses not only ensures its longevity, but also drives additional storage investments.

The mainframe is still seen by respondents as a key element of centrally managed corporate data and high value computing workloads by providing them with a layer of highly controllable enterprise management software. Many customers reported that they can plan another wave of investments in the System z platform over the next two to five years, given the system's high availability, reliability, and security for mission-critical applications. "Customers continue to collect dividends on their System z investments, which makes future investments much more palatable, even in difficult economic times," said Tim Grieser, program vice president of Enterprise System Management Software at IDC, in a statement. "The positive outlook for the mainframe is also driven by specific initiatives designed to improve the utility and operational efficiency of the platform from the perspectives of highly scalable operations, ability to run new workloads, and total cost of operations (TCO)."

Other key findings from the study include:

"IBM has revitalized the mainframe by implementing the specialized processor strategyAccording to survey respondents, "processing power" and "system reliability/uptime" were the top-ranked reasons for hosting applications on the mainframeFavorable pricing was the No. 1 reason for migrating applications off the mainframe."

Additional survey findings can be found in the IDC special study, Mainframe Directions in the Multi-Platform Data Center 2009-2013: Today's Workloads and Future Outlook (IDC #219797).