Big Iron Big in Brazil

Brazil invests nearly one-third of its total IT spending in mainframe systems

What’s the world’s biggest mainframe market? Okay, that one’s easy—it’s the United States, of course. Not much farther down the list (at number six) is an unlikely country. According to market watcher International Data Corp. (IDC), though Brazil accounted for only 1.5 percent of worldwide IT spending in 2006, it helped generate 11.5 percent of worldwide mainframe revenues.

Over the last five years, Brazil has invested 30 percent of its total IT spending in mainframe systems. That’s nearly three times the global average (11 percent). "Analyzing the evolution of mainframe technologies … and the investment pace in the market for mainframe systems over the past few years, Brazil represents a major opportunity for hardware, software, and services vendors," said IDC senior market analyst Reinaldo Roveri, in a statement.

The market watcher recently interviewed almost 80 of Brazil’s largest mainframe customers. Among other findings, the resulting IDC study ("Brazilian Mainframe Market and Migration Trends 2007") had at least one sobering upshot: nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of Brazilian mainframe customers anticipate performing migrations of some kind from mainframe to non-mainframe platforms over the next few years.

"The study reveals that several CIOs and infrastructure managers are seeking alternative solutions for their infrastructures while at the same time, in specific vertical markets, mainframe servers continue to be considered the most suitable option for critical applications," said Roveri.

In Brazil, mainframe adoption by industry is similar to that in the U.S. and other large Big-Iron markets. Most operating mainframe systems are used in the finance and government sectors, IDC says. On average, Brazilian mainframe shops host 60 business applications per Big Iron system, the report indicates. "[T]he number of applications hosted by a system in the Finance industry is much higher than it is in Government. On the other hand, the number of applications does not necessarily reflect the number of installed MIPS," Roveri pointed out.

Even though a surprising number of Brazil’s mainframe shops are contemplating moving at least some of their applications or services off of Big Iron, they’re still impressed by the mainframe’s reliability and availability. In this respect and others, Brazil’s Big Iron users seem to be grappling with many of the same issues that bedevil mainframe shops, including those in the U.S.

"In the mainframe scenario in Brazil, every case is unique. There can be no generalization. Most of the time, we are dealing with highly critical systems, of which companies have been building year by year. Some companies simply love their mainframes. On the other hand, there are some cases in which mainframe maintenance is carried out only to support installed legacy applications or is related to legal issues," Roveri explained.

"What we can generalize is that the reality for large companies using mainframe systems is a wide web of interdependent platforms which host many critical systems."

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.