Maximizing the Mainframe

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 07-23-2007

With the SHARE conference of IBM mainframe users coming up in August, I figured it's time for another look at the world of mainframe computing. Bottom line: It ain't going anywhere.

By that I mean the mainframe continues to go on and on like the Energizer bunny.

Indeed, on the earnings webcast July 19 detailing IBM's second-quarter 2007 financial results, Michael Loughridge, the company's senior vice president and chief financial officer, praised IBM's systems group for the mainframe results.

"We have had eight consecutive quarters of growth in the mainframe business," Loughridge said. "You have to go back to the water-cooled days [of mainframe systems] for that."

IBM said its Systems and Technology revenue, which includes sales of mainframe computers, servers for businesses and microchips, grew by 2 percent last quarter.

Meanwhile, with the mainframe as a key target, Software AG recently named Joe Gentry as chief technology officer of the company's Enterprise Transaction Systems group. Gentry said Software AG is focused on two main pushes: legacy mainframe modernization and the optimization of current systems. The company is also partnering closely with IBM as it commits millions to its mainframe strategy, he said.

As part of its mainframe modernization effort, Software AG also is working to bring RIA (rich Internet applications) to the mainframe via the use of AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) and other Web 2.0 technologies, Gentry said.

"We bring the mainframe to the Web 2.0 world and we want to enable people to take advantage of the data on the mainframe," he said.

Moreover, he said the mainframe would do well with the concepts of the semantic Web, "where you need a level of security and reliability. The mainframe does very well here, coupled with transactions."

Click here to read more about IBM's Web 2.0 wares.

Gentry said Software AG is also looking to partner with systems integrators and consultants, as well as with other vendors, to enhance the company's mainframe strategy.

"So when we look at our mainframe strategy, it's not just a story of getting stuff running on the mainframe, but also about getting stuff to integrate with it," he said, referring to AJAX, open source software, Microsoft's .Net environment, Eclipse plug-ins and more.

Software AG also is one of several companies leading a charge to SOA (service-oriented architecture)-enable mainframe applications as part of its mainframe strategy. The company is working to extend the mainframe application scope to other platforms and environments, such as SOA, by exposing legacy application functionality and data as Web services. This way users can reuse legacy functionality, leverage the operational qualities of the legacy transaction platform to new IT projects and enable legacy applications to become active and equal peer participants in an SOA world, Gentry said.

Credit Suisse, a leading financial institution and a global leader in SOA projects, standardized on CentraSite, Software AG's SOA governance solution, to support its strategic SOA program, Gentry said. CentraSite will form the technological foundation for Credit Suisse's SOA program, helping the enterprise transform core processes into reusable services. By mapping business processes in a modular way and shortening software development cycles, Credit Suisse expects to experience measurable increases in business process efficiency.

SHARE's membership comprises 20,000 individual computing specialists, including 2,000 of IBM's top enterprise computing customers. The group will hold its next SHARE user conference Aug. 12-17 in San Diego.

Disaster recovery is one of the main themes for SHARE's next conference, said officials of the organization. It is no longer enough to have a disaster recovery plan in place and to test it once a year. With the emergence of globalization, around-the-clock business operations and online business have elevated the dependence of an always-on IT infrastructure from supporting the business to being strategic to the business.

SOA and preparing to work in the IT industry in 2010 also are among the topics to be addressed at the conference. In fact, SHARE has developed a list of the top five strategies that businesses should employ to ensure business continuity: Create a multiple footprint for data recovery; practice predictive monitoring; employ autonomic computing; provide remote access for staff, including from mobile devices; and deliver 24x7 IT support.

In a recent research note about the mainframe and modernization, Saugatuck Technology said that with industry watchers having long predicted the death of the mainframe, "One might expect similar projections during the current, and concurrent, waves of SOA, open source, SAAS [Software as a Service], and utility computing adoption. However, far from heralding the death of the mainframe, these new trends, coupled with savvy vendor product strategies that essentially reinvent the mainframe, appear to be fueling demand for mainframes that far exceeds previous levels."

Moreover, while many are migrating off of mainframes, Saugatuck's study suggests that the migration of non-mainframe workloads to mainframes has benefits such as improved workload management, performance, availability, and security, coupled with reduced costs for electrical power, cooling, floor space and support staffs.

"It should be noted that these evaluations and benefits apply possibly even more dramatically to the infrastructures that are moving to SOA, utility computing, open source, and those that underlie SAAS offerings," the Saugatuck notice said.

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