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Why you can't move a mainframe with a cloud

Time to get hybrid

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CA Technologies did its own survey, and rather than just whispering the C-Word in one part of the survey, it based the whole premise of the conversation with 300 mainframe shops on this question: Is the mainframe the ultimate cloud platform?

This study, which was conducted only in Europe by Vanson Bourne on behalf of CA Technologies and which you can read here, had 79 per cent of mainframe shops saying that their mainframes would be "an integral part of their cloud computing strategies. Of those polled, 70 per cent said that cloud computing would sustain or extend their mainframe environments, 74 per cent said the mainframe will have a role in any cloud computing initiative at their company. Survey respondents came from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Benelux, Scandinavia, Russia, Poland, Turkey, and the Czech Republic.

The mainframe has its issues, as any proprietary platform does. But the IBM mainframe is under stress in particular because of the graying of the workforce that understands how to make these machines sit up and bark. Averaged across all countries, about 44 per cent of the respondents to the CA survey said the aging of the mainframe workforce and the difficulty in finding replacements for retiring workers will make the mainframe less viable in the future. Still, 82 per cent of the companies polled in the CA survey said they expected to use the mainframe the same or more in the future as they do today. And the big reason why? Because mainframes are reliable and understood, even if they are pricey.

All of this talk of cloud computing and hybrid architectures probably sounds familiar to people who have been around data centers for a couple of decades. Minicomputers surrounded mainframes two decades ago and sucked workloads off the big iron, to be followed in short order by Unix machines and then client/server workloads. Then along came the commercialization of the Internet and its Web technologies. And somehow, thanks to the vast fortunes that mainframe shops have spent on databases and applications, the mainframes have persisted at thousands of companies.

The fact that x64-based private clouds can arguably be built with mainframe-like capabilities will no doubt pull even more applications off some mainframes. But IBM's zBX strategy could, if it has some real meat to it instead of some pretty block diagrams, pull just as many workloads back onto a hybrid mainframe that gives mainframers more control and IBM more profits until the next wave hits. We'll see how this tug of war turns out in about two or three years. ®

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