21st century mainframes

Despite the ubiquity of the client/server computing model and the current hype around cloud, the mainframe is the focus of much modernisation work.

But Bhovan said that mainframe development has not stood still, where its vendors are developing tools and techniques for re-using typically core functionality from mainframe applications and wrapping them for use on client devices. "Having the ability to do full, end-to-end analysis to identify where potential issues lie, or trending, to even identify a problem before it occurs is key," he said.

Modernisatin

CA's O'Malley said the key to developing such capabilities would be modernising the mainframe user interfaces. "We want the graphical user interface to look like a modern Mac," he said. "That's why we have 20-something-year-olds in Prague developing new mainframe software for 20-something-year-old users." So the days of green-screen mainframe front ends may be numbered.

But, while the software and services vendors look to develop new, integrated toolsets for both the distributed, web-based and mainframe environments, O'Malley added that organisations still needed help to modernise.

"Tactically, these organisations need help now," he said. "That's why we've created a free service to hyper optimise mainframe environments, and we've done over 200 of these now. It also helps feel more confident about the future commitment of the key mainframe vendors."

In the future

Indeed, Banks said the ultimate progression of the development of integrated, mixed IT environments may be a hosted or service-based model. "IBM acquired Platform Solutions last year, which had software that would run mainframe applications on Itanium-based hardware," he explained.

He suggested that, in future, only very few multinational financial services or retail organisations would be able to afford the biggest IBM Z10 mainframe and that other platforms may provide scope for the mainframe to expand onto. "It's my opinion that IBM is more wedded to its mainframe hardware than is arguably necessary.

"Theoretically, an IT services company could hard partition a Z10 to offer those customers that could afford mainframe power, but can't justify the expense, as a service."

So, it may be that the effects of Blade servers and cloud computing in the data centre could ultimately show the way for IT's oldest mainstream environment. But whatever the future holds for the mainframe, indications are that it's likely to be around for at another 40 years.

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