Future of Mainframes

Future of Mainframes


In general terms, the mainframe is fit and well. Brand-new mainframe MIPS shipments continue to grow by around 15% a year, and the number of lines of Cobol code in production continues to grow by between 3% and 5%. The mainframe isn’t going to disappear tomorrow; indeed, we expect mainframes to be in production well into the next decade at least.

While the number of deployed MIPS is set to grow, the number of deployed mainframes will decline. Essentially, at the high-end, mainframes are getting bigger while at the low-end a significant number of smaller mainframes will be switched off.

Over the next five years smaller mainframes will come under intense pressure from x86-based platforms as their price and performance improvements out pace the mainframes by a significant margin. The price and performance gap is still widening, despite the excellent progress that IBM has made with the mainframe.

Despite the excitement that has surrounded the Web and new programming models like Java and J2EE, older, less ‘trendy’ technologies account for the vast bulk of computer processing today.

For example, Cobol remains the most widely deployed programming language in big business, accounting for 75% of all computer transactions and it is not going to go away. Cobol is pervasive in the financial sector, in defence, as well as within established manufacturing and insurance sectors. An estimation is saying that there are over 200 billion lines of Cobol in production today, and this number continues to grow by between three and five percent a year.

IBM and the mainframe

IBM is the leading mainframe vendor, with over 70% market share.

  • IBM is committed to its mainframe technology: the recent release of the z9 IBM’s latest generation of the zSeries platform demonstrated the fact that IBM is committed to supporting its existing clients and sees a long term future in the mainframes platform. IBM has invested well over $1 billion in developing the z9, and has committed to continue investing heavily in mainframe R&D.
  • IBM is improving the economics of the platform: IBM’s mainframe charter represents a commitment on IBM’s part to its mainframe using clients. To drive down the total cost of the mainframe platform that is, the cost of the hardware, software and administration and to make it a first class citizen in the new world of distributed computing.

Large organizations continue to make extensive use of mainframes. IBM regularly sets records for its mainframe sales not in terms of machines but in terms of the capacity. Mainframes are used with Java, Perl, C, C++, Apache, HTML, and many other web tools. IBM has started both educational and industry initiatives to convince more people to study and use mainframe technologies. Committing millions of dollars to these mainframe initiatives is indicative of IBM’s estimation of the “outdated” nature of the mainframe.

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