Why Mainframes Are Critical to Modern, Hybrid Cloud Strategy

by | Feb 23, 2021

Generally speaking, people tend to romanticize the old or the new—rarely do they idolize both. This is especially true in technology. In IT, you are either a die-hard fan of mainframes, COBOL, and on-prem systems; or you want to scrap everything and replace it with the latest, most extraordinary thing, like underwater datacenters.

While both have their pros and cons, the ideal scenario is probably somewhere between the two extremes. What if you could pick and choose the best of both worlds to create a truly superior technology environment tailored perfectly to your business needs? You can, and according to this Forrester report, you should.

Regardless of how you feel about “old tech,” core systems are still being used today. Due to unparalleled processing power and security, the mainframe represents a critical piece of an ideal hybrid cloud strategy. Now, many architects are starting to see why. Even Amazon is looking to get their piece of the core integration pie.

That’s why, of those surveyed in the report, 74% see the mainframe as a long-term strategic platform and are actively upgrading their environments despite challenges acquiring the right staff or skills.

After all, many businesses still run their mission-critical applications on the mainframe. They don’t want to risk changing a system that works.

Security and Data Protection

It turns out that security remains a critical priority. Mainframes themselves are extraordinarily stable. They experience less than one minute of unplanned downtime per server per year. For executives in highly-regulated industries, keeping systems in-house feels more comfortable. As a respondent working for a federal agency put it:

“I’m not comfortable with losing control of my data. Depending on how valuable your data is to you and your customer base, it should drive some of your decisions as to how much control of your data you’re going to put in somebody else’s arena.”

Interestingly, the reason why mainframes are so secure is the same reason why they’re so difficult to integrate. Back in the day, we built mainframes to talk only to themselves, as we didn’t conceive a reason to think outside of the single system. Today, we need our machines to communicate with various third-party apps and systems, and there are ways to integrate them safely.

The good news is that by utilizing core systems in your hybrid cloud strategy, you combine the mainframe’s security with the cloud’s adaptability. It’s a win-win.

Transaction Volume

Even today, the mainframe is unmatched as a transaction and batch processing back-end server. Maybe this will change one day, but don’t bet on it happening soon. This benefits businesses with mainframes, as the massive amounts of processing power needed for growing digital organizations will likely never slow down.

According to the report, in two years, respondents expect to see a 12% increase in the applications and a 9% increase in data residing on the mainframe as organizations shift to a hybrid model. To put it in perspective, every new release, every new customer-facing feature in mobile or web channels, and every new business process will exponentially increase transaction volume. Not to mention all of the things in the future that we can’t even imagine.

To optimize digital business transformation, organizations should employ a hybrid cloud strategy, utilizing the mainframe to house transactional data and incorporating the cloud’s more agile and responsive operating environment. Once again, enabling the best of both worlds.

Getting a Return on Your Investment

All in all, mainframes continue to process large amounts of data because of their operational efficiency, security, and compliance. We continue to use them today because they are proven to work with little or no business risk.

When creating a hybrid strategy, there’s no reason to get rid of what’s working. According to one IT director of a healthcare organization, “We process billions of transactions a day on our mainframe. Billions! To do that same thing on a distributed platform, we’d need to build another data center in order to put all the equipment there to make it work.”

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