The Mainframe Witch-Hunt
The Salem witch trials were an ugly moment in US history. A combination of groupthink, bad religion and confirmation bias led an entire community to act irrationally. And the results were not pretty. Twenty people—most of them women—were executed for being something we know they could not have been.
In 2016, the least expensive city in the U.S. for annual data center operating costs is Sioux Falls, South Dakota, at $9,684,282 in annual operating costs. In Canada, where the lowest risk associated with data centers is second only to the U.S., the costs of energy and other data center elements can be even less. Nevertheless, millions of dollars annually to operate a data center is still a lot of money.
In 2012, analysts at Gartner described the changing dynamics of digital business as being driven by what they call The Nexus of Forces. This important concept is crucial to understand and adapt to because it is impacting all of our businesses and the computing resources we use to conduct our business. And that, of course, means that the mainframe is being impacted.
The Wright Flyer looks light and insubstantial in images, but on September 17, 1908, the world-changing machine nearly killed its inventor. A propeller snapped as Orville was demonstrating an improved version of the Flyer, causing a crash that broke four of his ribs. In that moment the physical, technical and historical weight of the invention is made starkly clear.
It’s NHL hockey playoff season. I love this time of year: the days are longer and brighter, the geese are back in town, the weather is warming up and, more importantly, the smell of playoff hockey intensity is back.
Mainframes are under siege. You might like to picture the mainframe department as some medieval castle surrounded by invading troops. There’s no actual fighting going on, but gradually the forces of distributed computing are waiting for the survivors inside the fortress to die of hunger (or in our case, retire through old age). One day, there will be no-one left to defend the castle – one day, there will be no-one left to run the mainframe.
DB2 for z/OS applications continue to be a workhorse for large IT shops. Of course the DB2 applications have Service Level Agreements for availability and performance. These are largely based on requirements that drive customer satisfaction and transaction throughput. Most DBAs are proficient in identifying performance problems and tuning the application SQL and data bases for performance in order to meet the SLAs. However, many DBAs may not be aware of the fact that DB2 is a significant component in the cost of the aWLC (advanced Workload License Charge) Monthly License Charge bill.
A few years ago, I was speaking at a conference on the west coast—attending were mostly IT executives from startup companies, and it was a lively group. Also, some IT folks were in attendance from some more established companies. Afterwards I sat beside one such chap at a sponsored evening at a nice restaurant. He attended the conference as he wanted to build a new call center on the west coast for a hotel chain that was looking to expand into other regions, and we got talking. As it turns out, he had an interesting mainframe migration story to tell, and after a few drinks he gave me all the juicy details.
So what is a mainframe? The answer to that question might, at first glance, seem to be obvious to some of us who have worked with mainframe systems our entire career. But have you ever really tried to step back and think about the question? What if your Mother asked you what you do? Could you talk to her about mainframes in terms she would understand? After the discussion, would she know, at any level, how a mainframe is different than other types of computers when you were done? And would she have any idea what it is that you do all day?