Mainframe – the dinosaur on the cutting edge

There was a time, quite a while ago now, when there were serious IT executives announcing that the mainframe was obsolete, overpriced technology and that its days were numbered. It was a dinosaur. But these folks weren’t well informed, and perhaps had certain biases that clouded their judgement. Gone are the days where a CIO would start a new job with the intent of “getting off the mainframe” just for the sake of doing it. There have been too many failed attempts at that (here’s an example), and even successful migrations have left IT departments with less capability than they had before the migration.

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My mind is getting cloudy…

I’m sitting in a big Dallas hotel with hundreds of other attendees at a “Microsoft Cloud Roadshow” event. This is not a “C-Suite” event; I’ve been the only CIO at the table each time. No, these are programming managers, security officers, infrastructure geeks. I’ve asked around every chance I get, and after my (totally unscientific) poll, here’s what I discovered: more of these technical folks attending a cloud event trust the mainframe more than the cloud!

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Getting off that mainframe – or maybe not!

Historically, IT organizations have abandoned the mainframe platform for cost reasons. It’s a fact, and there’s no getting around that; it’s true. Now whether that makes sense or not is another matter.

Howard Rubin has mentioned that 68% of production workloads is handled by mainframes, but mainframes only account for 6% of the IT cost. So, dollar-for-dollar, has the mainframe been replaced with a system that has as much throughput? In most cases, probably not. However, you can build a distributed computing solution with transaction throughput capabilities that are equal to a mainframe system, and you can indeed build a distributed computing solution as reliable as a mainframe system. That is also true. But the issue of the cost is probably just a case of the mainframe seeming like Bart Simpson. No matter what happened—it was his fault.

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