Skip to main content

The evolution of the mainframe

Praised for its processing powers and ability to cope with huge amounts of data – the mainframe was an integral part of the IT department, and the running of the entire business.

Yet, like so many IT trends, in the 1990s the mainframe went out of fashion. Dismissed as too large and bulky, an era of new and cheaper platforms began to take centre stage, sparking predictions of the “death of the mainframe.”

However this one didn’t quite come true. In fact, according to recent research we conducted, the mainframe continues to serve as a cornerstone of growth and innovation. Nearly three-quarters of UK respondents (72 per cent) confirmed that the mainframe is a strategic or highly strategic part of their current and future IT plans.

And judging by the numerous benefits, it’s not hard to understand why. The study revealed that the mainframe is playing an increasingly strategic role in managing the evolving needs of the enterprise – and far from being "stuck in the past", it is playing an important role as an enabler of innovation as big data and cloud computing transform the face of enterprise IT.

Rather than becoming outdated by current influential technology trends, such as cloud computing, mobility and big data, the mainframe can play an important role in enabling this innovation in the coming years.

Nearly half (42 per cent) of those surveyed in the UK believe the mainframe is, or will be, a highly strategic platform in cloud computing efforts – with respondents citing security, scalability and flexibility in the delivery of new services as the most important benefits in leveraging the mainframe to enable the cloud.

The value of the mainframe is further reflected in the fact that so many companies are seeking candidates with cross-disciplinary skill sets to fill critical mainframe workforce needs.

71 per cent believe their organisations will face a shortage of mainframe skills in the future, yet almost all respondents (98 per cent in the UK) felt their organisations were moderately or highly prepared to ensure the continuity of their mainframe workforce.

Despite the skills shortage Britain is facing, businesses are clearly determined to be prepared to handle this challenge; ensuring their company is equipped with the relevant mainframe skills.

So, despite the (premature) rumours of the death of the mainframe I think we can all agree it’s far from ‘dead’. Instead, the mainframe is continually adapting to the ever changing demands of the IT department, making this platform a vital part of technological innovation now – and I’m sure – for many years to come.

Colin Bannister is CTO and Vice President of Technical Sales for UK&I. The office of the CTO in Europe works closely with CA Technologies largest customers and partners to ensure that the relevant solution strategy maps appropriately to customer needs. Colin is responsible for managing the technical pre-sales teams and for defining and promoting CA Technologies solution strategy.