Expert says 2019 is the year of the mainframe renaissance

Expert says 2019 is the year of the mainframe renaissance

Bill Miller, President, ZSolutions at BMC Software, believes businesses and organisations are going to transform the way they run their operations by taking a more automated approach. Technologies such as AI and ML are all the hype and are only going to become more popular as the modern workforce continues to evolve.

At a time when newer technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cloud computing dominate conversations across the industry, it turns out that one of the most important platforms for digital business has been around for decades: the mainframe.

According to our 2018 Mainframe Research Report, an overwhelming consensus of IT executives and professionals see a bright future for the mainframe. Indeed, 93% of executives were reported to have predicted growth in mainframe workloads in 2018 and beyond – the highest level in five years.

However, we are not talking about the same mainframe from previous decades. Today’s mainframe has been enhanced by Machine Learning and automation – allowing organisations to take one step closer to achieving a self-managing platform. Mounting demands around regulatory compliance and risk mitigation have also created a greater need for a secure and reliable solution such as the mainframe, especially one that can predict and mitigate risks before they occur. Even DevOps teams are taking note – more organisations are applying agile/DevOps approaches to their mainframe environments than ever before.
All these trends and more are placing the mainframe in front of key audiences from the C-suite to a newer and different set of workers like millennials and programmers. As the mainframe continues to be relevant in solving today’s business challenges while reinventing itself to leverage the latest technology innovations, we will see the mainframe make its comeback this year.

The mainframe industry will be modernised – from people to technology

In 2019, enterprises will modernise both their mainframe technology and their workforce to meet the demands of our data-driven era. What does this mean for businesses? Organisations will prioritise application modernisation and embrace AI for IT Operations (AIOps) and Machine Learning to empower their changing workforce.

Some companies are using AI and Machine Learning to run analytics, however most still require subject matter experts and/or data scientists to turn data into meaningful and actionable insights. Unfortunately, hiring additional staff is not always a possible scenario and when businesses need information in real time, an automated approach is even more necessary.

The good news is that because organisations that use mainframes are working more diligently than ever to modernise and optimise their operations, they are much closer to implementing technology and capabilities that will help them get to a self-managing mainframe. A self-managing mainframe that employs intelligence and automation can heal and manage itself automatically with minimal manual intervention. For example, with predictive analytics and Machine Learning capabilities, a self-managing mainframe can learn from thousands of outage conditions and automatically apply that intelligence and learning to predict issues, recommend fixes and take action.

Mainframe modernisation will also happen in the workforce – as a generation of mainframe experts retires, we will see more millennials and soon, Generation Z workers, hired to run advanced mainframe technologies.

Today, the platform has a higher proportion of admins with under five years experience than ever before. Automation helps this new generation of IT workers to maximise mainframe performance without the years of experience it takes to fully master the platform.

Indeed, changing demographics are contributing to the mainframe’s positive future and our survey found that 95% of millennials are positive about the mainframe’s long-term prospects for supporting new and legacy applications. This has several important implications to the mainframe skills gap. Firstly, that businesses can up their mainframe spend without fear that there will be no one to manage it and secondly, that this youthful new talent pool will bring new ideas to the fore.

Mainframe and DevOps will become unanimous

There is no such thing as an isolated IT environment, especially in a large enterprise. Much of the talk around DevOps has centred on cloud-based applications, but the reality is today’s modern application is often built on a multi-tiered application architecture that spans from mobile to servers. In this environment, the mainframe is the most powerful, secure and reliable backend processor and it must enable application teams to work in a multi-layered development process. However, large organisations will not be able to fully capitalise on this new deployment model without connecting their most vital platforms.

Common issues faced with DevOps within mainframe environments consists of the disparity between IT and application development teams needing to roll out changes to applications and databases faster and in coordination with DevOps processes. However, a velocity gap exists – the number of application releases far exceeds the number of database releases. The velocity gap is slowing companies down which is not timely in this age of Digital Transformation.

Database administrators (DBAs) and application programmers are challenged with trying to coordinate and deploy new applications. Whether they are for test or production implementation, intelligently automated DevOps can help companies become more agile and free up crucial DBA time, deeming organisations’ enterprise IT more profitable and efficient.

This is a key example of how, in 2019, organisations will work to fully capitalise on the agility and speed that DevOps can bring and with the right approach, mainframes can become an integral part of the DevOps process. Furthermore, our mainframe survey stated that Java usage increased nine percentage points over the last three years to 82%, and 48% are already using agile/DevOps practices in their mainframe environment – suggesting real appetite for DevOps innovation.

Mainframes will win over the C-suite, again

Digitisation and mobility are placing incredible pressure on both IT and mainframes to manage a greater volume, variety and velocity of transactions and data. Thankfully, the mainframe’s longevity stems partly from its ability to reinvent itself constantly to facilitate the changing dynamics of modern business, maintain near-constant availability and efficiently process billions of critical transactions – proving to be a viable long-term platform today.

Executives today also face another concern that is made more complex by digitisation and mobility: managing risk and securing an organisation’s data and systems. In fact, our annual survey ranked security as the second biggest challenge and priority for enterprises and organisations around the world, right after cost optimisation.

Misconceptions about mainframes have led individuals to underestimate the need to fully understand their security posture on the platform. However, the survey revealed that more than half of our respondents say they recognise security as the mainframe’s second greatest strength after availability. This is particularly important due to the heightening focus on data-driven regulations, such as Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The good news for executives is that AI, automation and Machine Learning hold promise in addressing challenges with uncertain macroeconomic changes, stringent data compliance rules and changing workforces – all tangible trials for the C-suite. As the ‘big iron’ evolves and continues to serve as the backbone of digital environments, 2019 is the year that savvy IT operations management (ITOM) executives will truly embrace the power and value their mainframes bring to the business.

The proliferation of mobile applications and digital-first businesses have effectively rewritten the rulebook and companies operate in a way that is different to what we have seen in years prior. Thankfully, the mainframe has a place in helping companies run and reinvent their business. It is capable of scaling to handle ever-increasing transaction volumes efficiently and securely, and we are excited to see where it will go next. With the combination of fresh talent, executive buy-in and new intelligent automation technologies, the mainframe remains a crucial element in the enterprise IT landscape today — and in the future.

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