As Black Friday begins to emerge on the horizon it makes me think about how we are about to read about some pretty wild stats. Nearly 40 percent of the shopping that is done for Christmas gifts is done around Black Friday by some 100M shoppers. The NRF always produces these statistics because they are vital indicators of the economy and also vital to the growth of the retail sector.
This year in particular is going to be impressive because many analysts are predicting that there will be an inflection point in that Cyber Monday sales will beat Black Friday sales for the first time. Think about all that business-critical transaction activity happening in this period. And if you are a retail CFO you are probably keenly aware of the risk. Your reputation is on the line, and this is certainly not the time that you want to worry about potential problems with your IT infrastructure, because the stakes are so high. You need to rely on those transactions happening.
I have been lucky to meet a number of CFOs from some major Fortune 500 companies, and I am impressed at how I am hearing a common thread. Being faced with and being responsible for ensuring that proper business practices are in place, CFOs are beginning to see the value in mainframe computing. They are seeing the value of the platform because it answers the very things that are the pillars of the business: Can we reliably run the business with a plan for continuity that is profitable to the business in a manner consistent with shareholder growth plans?
As I have been having these conversations more frequently, they seem quick to embrace the mainframe for the following reasons:
1. Mainframes are the most reliable, stable, and available systems
The reason most of the world works is because the mainframe computer’s reliability, stability and availability provides the electricity grids, bank ATM networks, credit card transactions, and other services that countries, civilisation, and society depend on. The mainframe systems are engineered with the most state-of-the-art hardware and software advances. Since mainframe computers are almost always running at 100% utilization, the platform demands the fastest storage, memory capacities, and CPU chip technology to get processing done efficiently and effectively. Some mainframe computer systems have been operating constantly 24/7/365 for decades.
2. It is the best system to serve all
Since hardware and software upgrades are constant, the mainframe processing architecture is built to be redundant so operations can continue during maintenance, and while upgrades occur. It also provides the ability to support an ever-increasing number of operating systems, virtual environments, and user bases with an optimum number of software components and support personnel. Further, since the mainframe capacity can be scaled up horizontally almost limitlessly by adding additional machines, the processing power can securely segment and service side-by-side any and all types of test, QA, production, old, new, batch and interactive state-of-the-art applications from a centralized platform. By servicing mainframe, UNIX, and other operating systems in virtual environments, the mainframe can serve data and processing power for any requirements.
3. The mainframe has the most advanced technology available
The mainframe has been around for over 50 years and continues to be at the forefront of hardware and software technology advances. Many of the hardware and software technologies that are available in any big or small computing systems were developed first in the mainframe environment.
From virtual environments, memory management, and multi-tier architectures to cloud time-sharing computing model types, most computer technologies were first developed, leveraged, and continue to be used in mainframe facilities around the world. The most powerful and fast CPU chips, the number of parallel CPU chips, and multi-threading architectures are currently available on the mainframe. The different storage types from tape to flash memory can be architected to the extreme within the broad capacity of the mainframe. Additionally, all these hardware and software technology capabilities are backed up through comprehensive administration capabilities. The mainframe provides flexibility to customize the hardware and software environment and performance settings to optimize processing CPU and I/O capacity requirements while balancing and maximizing utilization.
4. Mainframes provide the lowest cost of ownership
Mainframe power requirements and cooling needs are much lower, and less costly than equivalent distributed UNIX or Windows platforms (in terms of overall processing throughput, system capacity, reliability/redundancy and security). Personnel costs are as much as 60 percent of budget for any computing environment, and the number of personnel required to administer, configure, and maintain non-mainframe computing environments is much greater compared to cost efficient mainframe environments.
In the black with the mainframe
Accountants hate to be talking about things that are “red,” so this is precisely where Black Friday gets its name. It is the day that retailers who would traditionally operate in the red throughout the year would turn the corner to operating in the black. Meaning that they became profitable. Think that through: You have been waiting for nearly 11 months to become profitable, and finally your entire year is profitable after a single day. The importance of this to the finance organization is monumental.
And in the case of a publicly traded company, if not every company for that matter, becoming profitable is critical to the success of your business—so having your transactions complete with a high degree of certainty is a clear and obvious must have. When you need reliability, dependability, scalability and security, coupled with a low cost of ownership, and the safest way to move from red to black—use a mainframe.