Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Whither the Mainframe?

IT industry pundits have been predicting the demise of the mainframe computer for at least twenty years, but they have for the most part been wrong. The mainframe computer is still with us, and hosting mission critical information and business processes.

But it may be the human part of the human-machine interface that finally triggers the mainframe's downfall:

A study of 520 CIOs in large enterprises in eight countries found most are worried about the impact of the increasing number of mainframe workers who are retiring. Here are the results of the study, which was done for Compuware Corp. of Detroit.
(CIOs Worry About Losing Mainframe Talent, IT World Canada)

CIOs are faced with a dilemma: they can either increase their efforts to train more mainframe resources, or they can move mission critical business processes away from legacy mainframe applications. However, mainframe IT is unlikely to attract many star trainees simply because the mainframe market is shrinking. While there may be a shortage of mainframe technologists developing, who wants to invest in an education that may lose all relevance in 10 to 15 years.

The fact is that mainframe revenues are falling:

The revenue declines have sparked a new round of speculation about whether the mainframe is headed for extinction. For example, wrote Steve Hamm in Business Week on August 6, 2009: "IBM's 45-year-old line of mainframe computers has survived the onslaught of minicomputers in the 1980s, the Unix operating system in the '90s, PCs and the Internet. But a 39 percent plunge in mainframe revenues in IBM's second quarter seems to signal that this longtime mainstay of IBM's business is on its way to the junkyard." (The Mainframe: Up, Down, In or Out? CIO Zone)

The plunge in revenue and the shortage of mainframe technologists may turn the demise of the mainframe into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What is your corporate strategy for managing mainframe change? Are you leveraging your BI system for greater ROI by using it to replace legacy mainframe applications? Is your BI system well enough managed to allow you to be this progressive?

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