Mainframe Remains Central to Data Integration Efforts

New survey shows that integration still done with hand-coded scripting

Some industry estimates put the size of the world’s mission-critical business information stored on mainframes at more than 70 percent. As enterprises seek to leverage this wealth of data, and do so efficiently and cost-effectively, a new survey points to work being done the old-fashioned way.

Survey results are available on SHARE's Web site.

SHARE, an independent IBM users group, conducted a survey of its members during July and August of 2007, and recently publicly revealed the results of the 431 responses. In its report, The New Mainframe: Data Integration and Service-Oriented Architecture, Big Iron Style, the organization revealed that (perhaps to no one’s surprise) "many mainframe systems are at the center of efforts to achieve enterprise data integration, as well as to extend applications into service-oriented architectures." The organization also notes that "mainframes are evolving into a leading role both as a source of mission-critical data, as well as key services." This "immense, scalable, real-time transaction platform for the highly integrated environments" is needed by today's businesses.

According to the survey, most mainframe data is still locked up, and most integration efforts are still done with hand-coded scripting.

Proactive efforts to integrate mainframe data and distributed data are underway, and enterprise IT recognizes the need to deliver such data in real time, typically within seconds. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that respondents said they were interested in service-oriented architecture (SOA) as a way to better leverage mainframe resources.

Respondents included application development and project managers (20 percent), systems administrators (17 percent), analyst/programmers (15 percent), and IT managers, directors, and CIOs (13 percent). One quarter of respondents came from organizations with more than 10,000 employees, with 26 percent from companies with more than a billion dollars in revenue each year; 29 percent came from the small business sector (defined as companies with fewer than 100 employees). The largest segment of respondents (roughly one-fifth of those surveyed) work in the public or non-profit sectors

The mainframe runs mission-critical applications, including Accounting and finance (at 59% of sites), IT/system monitoring (37 percent), human resources and payroll (35 percent), and data warehouse and data marts (27 percent).

Among the key findings:

  • At least half of the surveyed sites still use hand-coded scripts to move data from their mainframes to other platforms or databases; although mainframes store and manage much of their enterprise data, most remains inaccessible

  • Most mainframe sites share only a small portion of data across enterprise systems; a majority needs to make what data is available viewable in real time

  • Nearly one in four respondents' companies have SOA efforts now in progress; one third are planning or considering SOA, of which at least half will employ mainframes in a central role

  • Although most SOA efforts don't reach all the enterprise, many companies are preparing SOA to meet real-time requirements (about 40 percent of companies are deploying or considering event-driven architecture)

The survey results are available on SHARE's Web site.

About the Author

James E. Powell is the former editorial director of Enterprise Strategies (esj.com).