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1 The mainframe manifesto: Smart technology investments keep your business running even smarter Better Connections. Better Results.

2 An Acxiom White Paper The mainframe manifesto: Smart technology investments keep your business running even smarter For years, experts have predicted the death of the mainframe. And for years, the mainframe has defied all the doomsayers by remaining an important part of many corporate infrastructures. The reasons are simple. When chosen for the right applications and environments, mainframes provide cost-effective computing on a scale and efficiency that distributed computing systems cannot touch. The newest generations of mainframes bring new long life to legacy systems with real security and control and without the time and enormous expense it would take to port mission-critical applications to other technology. However, even as mainframes become more sophisticated and powerful than ever, companies do face one problem: finding the staff to run them. That s why executives are looking at the smart alternative of outsourcing the operation and maintenance of their mainframes. Reports of its death are greatly exaggerated In a famously incorrect 1991 prediction, former InfoWorld editor-in-chief Stuart Alsop said the last mainframe would be shut down by He wasn t the only one making such a prediction. But by 1999, it was clear that IT departments weren t ready to bid a fond farewell to big iron. 2 In the first quarter of 2011, IBM System z mainframe sales saw a 34 percent year-over-year increase in computing power delivered, measured by MIPs. 3 A 2011 survey by zjournal showed that 79 percent of the IT shops whose executives were interviewed expected that their mainframe environments would increase (40.9 percent) or at least stay the same (38.1 percent). 4 Recent studies show that there are still about 10,000 mainframes in use worldwide. 5 That s far from a dying breed. HOW MAINFRAME ENVIRONMENTS ARE GROWING So why the disconnect? A critical mistake Alsop and others made was looking at the rapid pace of advancement in PCs and small 12.7% 40.9% 8.3% Increasing over the next 12 months Decreasing over the next 12 months Staying the same Don t know servers and comparing that capacity to a mainframe that, in their minds, remained 38.1% frozen in time. However, the same Moore s 1

3 The Mainframe Manifesto Law that drove the power of small computers would do the same for their much larger cousins. Available mainframe MIPs continue to increase. Costs per MIP continue to decline. New technologies, like mainframes running virtual Linux machines that effectively created blade servers without the blades, 6 have kept mainframe capabilities current with corporate needs. Emerging enterprise-wide architectures such as Business Integration, Virtualization, SOA, along with ziip, zaap and IFL engines and hipersockets, have created greater value in the mainframe. In 2010, IBM introduced the zenterprise, paving the way for a modern mainframe with a multi-architecture strategy that embraces both Unix and Linux. Shortly after, BMC Software released a report that revealed 84 percent of mainframe users forecasted an increase in MIPS usage over the next year and 60 percent indicated that the mainframe would attract new workloads. 7 Mainframes offer not only raw power, but also levels of security, reliability, availability, virtualization, provisioning and workload management that small servers can t yet duplicate. When scalability is not an issue when the application must service many users or customers at the same time the one advantage X86- based servers do have, the ability to grow capacity with increased computing needs, is no longer a help. For small loads, a truck may do. However, when a company wants to ship many containers of product at the same time, only a large train or cargo ship will do. Even the concept of cloud computing does not eliminate the need for mainframes. There is no cloud equivalent of a mainframe... other than a mainframe. Pushing mainframe applications onto cloud computing could be a disaster, as it would require an entirely different application architecture that would suddenly be completely unproven and untried. 8 So most executives see core business logic remaining on the mainframe. Mainframe weakness Unfortunately, there are a few problems facing those using mainframes. The most obvious is human resources. Although mainframes are indispensible for the foreseeable future, today s mainframe specialists won t be around forever. According to Dayton Semerjian, a senior vice-president at CA Technologies, the average age for mainframe workers is between 55 and As they leave the workforce, they take important knowledge with them, as well as a difficult-to-duplicate set of skills and experiences. Although there are training options to learn mainframe skills, the big emphasis for younger people is on hot technologies like Java. According to the Decipher survey, 61 percent of respondents said the IT industry does too little to promote mainframe career opportunities to recent graduates. Furthermore, 35 percent believe graduates aren t as proficient as those who entered the industry a decade ago. Also, 61 percent found that recruiting new personnel either took longer than expected, took long enough to have a negative impact on IT operations, or they still haven t found people after six months. 10 The zjournal survey showed the practical implications of this challenge. Nearly a third 31.1 percent of the respondents said they did not have enough expertise on staff for current operations. About 45.3 percent said an aging workforce had either already begun to introduce risk into the reliability and stability of their mainframe environment or they expected it to happen within two years. 11 The following chart shows some of the key areas that personnel loss will affect. 2

4 The Mainframe Manifesto Furthermore, companies that have decided to migrate off mainframes face two issues. One is the concept of critical mass, or the minimum level of people, hardware, software and facilities necessary to maintain a production data center. This becomes a minimum cost to run applications. Shops that try to move to new technology platforms must determine how to maintain the necessary critical mass during the process of downsizing or migration. It is completely unlike the more convenient modular experience when companies replace one set of proprietary Unix or x86 servers with a different set. Mainframe operations staff Assembler language-based applications KEY AREAS WHERE RETIREMENT WILL SOON IMPACT SYSTEMS WITHIN YOUR DATA CENTER 24.6% 27.0% Related to this is the last application standing problem. Typically, one or a few applications require functionality that is missing from the new server software suite for example, those written in COBOL and VSAM with custom business logic. It could take years to port such an application to Java and SQL. And, of course, this application inevitably provides a key part of the company s business computing requirements. A company can easily find itself in a corner with the need to keep a mainframe running but not enough work being done on it to economically use all the resources it requires. COBOL-based applications Other IMS 7.5% 11.9% 21.8% In addition, mainframe groups face the same pressures as the rest of IT: budget restrictions. According to the zjournal survey, 88.1 percent of those surveyed said that they had to reduce their costs of operations. 12 Given the challenges, what s an IT executive to do? Facing the future Fortunately, there are solutions to the problems that mainframe IT shops face. In the short term, companies have a number of options: Recruit older or even retired workers who have the necessary skills. Develop plans to retain experienced workers, possibly offering part-time positions. Work with local colleges to attract interns and graduates. Outsource their mainframe operations. The attraction of outsourcing is that it solves the staffing, critical mass and last application standing issues all at the same time. 3

5 The Mainframe Manifesto How do you know when outsourcing might make sense for you? Look at the following statements and check each that is an issue or will be one within the next two years: q A lack of experienced personnel is or will create risk for the reliability and stability of our mainframe environment. q Porting critical systems to a server environment would demand more resources than are available. q We are increasing the number of mainframe MIPS we use. q Few or none of our new employees have experience in a mainframe environment. q The number of critical systems that run on the mainframe is low enough to make the overhead cost higher than we would like. q Critical mass issues have affected our plans to port applications off mainframes. q Mainframe costs are consuming too large a part of our overall IT budget. If you are facing some of these challenges, a solution is necessary. Outsourcing mainframe operations to an experienced services provider is a cost-effective, operationally efficient alternative to trying to manage it in-house. For example, Acxiom a global leader in marketing services and technology manages one of the largest mainframe environments in the world. Acxiom continues to recruit and retain the most highly skilled mainframe professionals to address clients most complex mainframe challenges. The company has partnered to develop a shared mainframe college with a mainframe software vendor, gaining access to top personnel with the skills and experience necessary to effectively run mainframe environments. Additionally, the company has delivered cost savings for many of its clients a must in today s economically troubled environment. Acxiom runs mainframe environments for many customers and workloads. The scale combined with leverage gained from software vendor relationships allows Acxiom to continue delivering mainframe MIPS at lower costs and with less risk. Furthermore, the company s scale, leverage and resources eliminates the problems of critical mass and last application standing for those customers who wish to decrease the size of their mainframe operations. Gartner ranks Acxiom among the top three mainframe service providers in North America, and the company was recently ranked No. 1 in customer satisfaction for IT outsourcing by the Black Book of Outsourcing. 13 Perhaps it s time to evaluate your mainframe operations to ensure you are getting the most from your mainframe. To learn how Acxiom can increase your ROI and reduce costs, call ACXIOM or visit 4

6 (1) Eric Knorr, Opening Up the Mainframe, InfoWorld, March 26, 2004, (2) Kathleen Olsen, Reports of Mainframe s Death Highly Exaggerated, CIO, October 24, 2000, (3) IBM, First Quarter Results Announcement, April 19, 2011, (4) zjournal, Survey Results and Analysis for 2011 zjournal Mainframe Survey, March 11, 2011 (5) Capitalizing on a Mainframe Renaissance, BusinessManagement, Second Quarter, 2010, (6) John Sheesley, Why Aren t Mainframes Dead Already? TechRepublic, July 27, 2006, (7) BMC Software, Survey Shows Mainframe Remains a Critical Component of Hybrid Data Centers, October 25, 2010, (8) Charles Babcock, 7 Self-Inflicted Wounds Of Cloud Computing, InformationWeek, July 6, 2011, (9) Rachel King, Big Tech Problem as Mainframes Outlast Workforce, Bloomsberg Businessweek, August 2, 2010, tc _ htm (10) CA Technologies, ibid (11) zjournal, op. cit. (13) zjournal, op. cit. (13) State of the Global ICT Outsourcing Industry 2010, December AC / E. Third, Little Rock, AR acxiomit.com acxiom 2013 Acxiom Corporation. All rights reserved. Acxiom is a registered trademark of Acxiom Corporation.

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