by Balaji Narasimhan

Should Indian CIOs pay attention to mainframes?

Oct 11, 2016
AnalyticsBig DataBusiness

Mainframes have been written off as old has-beens for a long time, but they are stubbornly alive. Indian CIOs are happy that they don’t have such legacy—but should they change that?

Coming back to the office after a long weekend, you don’t expect to see any great stories on the newswire—but one story caught my eye. It read, The mainframe is back, and it’s getting agile, Compuware says.

Now, India is not seen as a country that has much to do with legacy mainframes. But should CIOs look at modern mainframes? I checked out some of our own IDG sites and found quite a few supporters.

First, some facts and figures. IDC said 1Q15 (JFM 2015) demand for high-end systems experienced a year-over-year revenue increase of 44.7 percent to $2.1 billion, bolstered by IBM’s z13 refresh. In September 2016, Bryan Smith in an opinion piece said that the cloud won’t kill mainframes because mainframes have something that the cloud will need over the next decade: power.

Some Indian public sector entities and older manufacturing companies have invested in mainframes decades ago. Apart from them, should CIOs of modern companies that have no legacy systems look at mainframes?

They perhaps should, for four reasons:

1. Power: When it comes to raw power, you just can’t beat a mainframe. For example, IBM says that its z13 is available with up to 141 configurable processor units and can support up to 8,000 virtual servers on a single footprint. Something like this will give Indian CIOs the ability to scale as the business grows. The power of a mainframe will also help CIOs when it comes to Big Data and analytics.

2. Legacy: Many companies around the world still rely on mainframes. While some companies have shifted away from old mainframes, quite a few of them are still sticking with them for various reasons. This means that they will not go away any time soon. So CIOs can rest secure in the knowledge that their investments will not fizzle out.

3. Reliability: Mainframes are known for their reliability and Wikipedia says that their high stability and reliability enables these machines to run uninterrupted for decades.

4. Backward Compatibility: Though major vendors have broken compatibility in the past—IBM broke away with CICS macro level in the 80s—mainframes offer a considerable amount of backward compatibility so Indian CIOs don’t have to worry too much about disruption (trust me, it’s not always a great thing, disruption).

Of course, as a columnist, it is easy for me to offer advice—as a CIO, it will be hard for you to implement it. Also, a CIO who pitches for something like mainframes in today’s day and age will probably run the risk of being called old fashioned.

But a true disruptor (ok, it is sometimes a nice word) is somebody who will do what it takes and not worry about labels. And you, I hope, are one such CIO.