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Mainframe Still Key to Enterprise Strategy

A new survey by CA Technologies, Mainframe as a Mainstay of the Enterprise 2012, reveals just how important the mainframe remains (and will continue to be) in IT’s computing strategy.

For example, when asked where their company’s corporate data resided, 59 percent of U.S. respondents said on the mainframe, 27 percent said the data was distributed, and 14 percent said it was in the cloud (using a SaaS vendor). Percentages were similar for all respondents: 54 percent said data resided on the mainframe, 29 percent said it was distributed, and 17 percent said it was in the cloud.

CA asked Decipher Research to poll 623 IT professionals from 11 countries (251 from the U.S., 372 from 10 primarily European and Asian countries) in August about how IT investments will change over the next 18 months: 30 percent of U.S. respondents said spending on mainframe hardware would increase, 49 percent say it would remain the same. Mainframe software also showed strength: 51 percent of U.S. respondents said they planned to increase spending, and 35 percent said spending would remain constant. More than a third (37 percent) said they’d be spending more on mainframe-related services; only 16 percent said they plan to spend less.

What part does the mainframe play in IT’s strategy? U.S. respondents said “The mainframe is a highly strategic part of our current and future IT strategy and will expand in use and growth” (29 percent) or “The mainframe is strategic to our current and future IT strategy, and we will maintain current use with limited growth” (48 percent). The percentages were similar for the respondents as a whole: 32 percent and 49 percent, respectively.

The mainframe is also key for cloud initiatives. More than half (52 percent) of U.S. respondents and 59 percent of all respondents said that they were “evaluating or planning to deploy new tools that enable the rapid deployment and cost-efficient provisioning of private and hybrid cloud services on the mainframe platform.”

There’s also good news for IT staff: 27 percent of U.S. respondents said they’d be spending more on staff in the next 18 months (the same percentage as all respondents overall), and 53 percent said HR for IT would remain the same (50 percent for all respondents).

Those hoping to hire staff will be looking for employees with both “mainframe and distributed skill sets.” For example, 84 to 89 percent “of organizations will be implementing a hybrid, cross-platform management model, with a shared budget, staffing and, leadership.”

The report warns that “There are indications of trouble in this area, albeit with a silver lining.” More than a quarter (27 percent) of U.S. respondents and 29 percent of all respondents believe their organization “will face a shortage of critical mainframe skills in just one to three years,” and another 28 percent (27 percent globally) “say the same about the next four to five years.” This problem was pointed out in last year’s Mainframe as a Mainstay report, which noted that although workers entering the workforce today were “likely the most tech-savvy ... history, with little memory of a pre-Internet world, the available skills didn’t necessarily translate to the enterprise infrastructure.”

I asked Mark Combs, distinguished senior vice president for the mainframe at CA Technologies about his reaction to the survey results.

“In the past, enterprises have made it clear they are concerned about the transitioning workforce, but they weren’t very pragmatic about it. Now, enterprises are facing up to the problem and have a handle on it, implementing hybrid groups to help turn over institutional knowledge as older workers approach retirement.”

Combs added that “Despite this staff transition, 98 percent of survey participants said their organization is prepared to ensure mainframe operations will continue.”

The mainframe’s importance didn’t surprise him. “Enterprises recognize that mainframes can handle massive amounts of data and do it efficiently. IT is facing massive volumes of data -- and the mainframe is equipped to handle it.”

What will the next survey reveal? Combs notes that “five years ago there was no ‘cloud’ in the results. Technology develops and changes all the time, and I expect that next year we’ll see more about mobile computing.” He also expects to see more interest in not just collecting big data but in using it to target their audience and improve the user experience.

Combs also anticipates greater attention to more complex application management end to end in hybrid environments. “IT found it difficult to analyze such environments, but CA tools are looking at applications from end to end to see where problems are. I expect adoption of such management tools to grow.”

You can view an analysis by CA Technologies of the survey results here (short registration required).

-- James E. Powell
Editorial Director, ESJ

Posted on 10/18/2012

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