A Mainframe for the Digital Age



Modern design

The mainframe is sometimes often pigeonholed as being an old, dying platform. If that’s true, then how do you explain the fact that mainframes process 90% of the world’s credit card payments and more daily transactions than Google search? Or that two-thirds of Fortune 100 companies use the mainframe as their core platform, along with 45 of the top 50 banks, four of the top five airlines, and seven of the top 10 retailers? Or that 90% of executives and practitioners say the mainframe is a platform for growth?

The perception that the mainframe is an artifact is undermined by the facts. The platform has evolved at a faster pace than the doubling of capacity and performance every two years dictated by Moore’s Law. Today’s mainframe is 531 million percent faster than the 1964 model, and onboard memory has expanded 63 billion percent.

The IBM Z platform supports the most-popular operating systems, including multiple versions of Linux. It runs containers natively and supports virtually every programming language in existence, including Java and Python. And the startling fact is that it does this while still maintaining byte-level compatibility with applications that were written more than 55 years ago. Can Windows do that?

Perhaps the better question is where the mainframe fits in today’s modern IT landscape. For businesses that put a premium on reliability, its out-of-the-box 99.999% reliability equates to 5.3 minutes of downtime per year, with an available option that reduces that figure to less than four seconds. The mainframe’s total cost of ownership (TCO) is excellent and its security unparalleled.

And now IT leaders have more choices than ever. They can host a traditional on-premises installation, opt for a composable plan in which they pay only for what they use, or run mainframe workloads as a service in the cloud. They can run legacy applications concurrently with new versions as they are being built. Then those new applications can either continue to enjoy the reliability, availability, and security benefits of running on the mainframe or transition to other platforms without incurring downtime.

Skeptics have forecast the demise of mainframes for nearly 40 years, but 63% of the executives surveyed by the IBM Institute for Business Value about this topic said they expect their IBM Z compute capacity to continue to grow. Their reasons are sound: In many scenarios, the TCO of the mainframe is lower than that of other platforms.

“Sixty-eight percent of mission-critical workloads run on mainframes, yet they only represent 6% of IT spending,” says Steve Nekolaichuk, global offering manager for Core Enterprise and zCloud at Kyndryl. The issue is not whether to abandon the mainframe but to “pick the right platform for the workload.”

Choosing a partner with deep experience in both mainframe operations and modernization can ease the pressure some executives are feeling to abandon this sturdy, resilient platform. For example, Kyndryl employs 8,300 mainframe experts on staff — with an average age of 30 — and continually invests in developing their skills through hands-on training and certifications.

Service providers can assume responsibility for ongoing administration, upgrades, upgrading and patching applications, and facilitating a move to agile development methodologies such as devops, all on the same platform. They can also help their customers migrate to Linux and facilitate cloud-native development of low-latency applications in a secure, highly available, and cost-effective environment.

These services can be delivered as a subscription, a managed service, or short-term projects. In many cases, partners also bring the experience that is needed to optimize workloads, improve processes, and rightsize application portfolios. Perhaps the question isn’t whether to abandon the mainframe but how to make it a more essential part of your hybrid-cloud strategy.

Click here to learn more about Kyndryl’s Core Enterprise and zCloud solutions.