Mainframes: underpinning the cloud

Contrary to some beliefs that the cloud will replace the mainframe, IBM Solutions Sales Manager Satish Babu points out that the mainframe supports cloud.

December 4, 2013

Contrary to some beliefs that the cloud will replace the mainframe, IBM Solutions Sales Manager Satish Babu points out that the mainframe supports cloud.

“There is a misconception that the cloud computing environment excludes mainframes, and legacy systems. On the contrary, the mainframe was introduced to serve as the most robust, scaleable system ever. Now, coupled with new open standards interfaces, we can take the strengths of the mainframe into the new world.”

“The mainframe is no dinosaur, and it’s not going away. In fact, uptake is increasing globally and the mainframe is more flexible than ever before, while its robustness, availability and reliability are improved year on year. The mainframe is only a legacy system if it is not being used effectively. Where industry is innovating on the mainframe, its strengths enable new technologies,” he says.

Babu says cloud is a construct in which infrastructure and software come into play in a virtualised environment, and the mainframe is an infrastructure element of the overall construct. “So they are not two different worlds,” he points out. He notes that as the enterprise IT environment becomes increasingly complex, IT looks to move a dispersed computing environment back to a consolidated, single system of records, shared across geographical areas and devices for a lower total cost of ownership. “You still need a mainframe, and it becomes a very viable infrastructure from which to deploy cloud services,” he says.

For large enterprises with data security concerns, such as banks, this implies moving to a private cloud supported by a mainframe. Most of the world’s top banks and largest insurance companies run mainframes – specifically, IBM System z, notes IBM, and mainframes process roughly 30 billion transactions a day. For other enterprises, the public cloud or a hybrid model may deliver the necessary benefits and economies of scale. “We see organisations across the board moving toward the cloud,” Babu says. “As virtualisation emerged, we saw less infrastructure needed. This led to standardisation, then automation, then cloud. It is all part of an incremental process of consolidation and improvement in cost containment and service delivery.”

IBM itself carried out a server consolidation project, called ‘Project Big Green’, starting in 2007, in which 3,900 servers were consolidated onto 16 mainframes, significantly decreasing the floor space and power required. “In South Africa, where enterprises are challenged with cost containment, consolidation delivers greater value,” he says.

The optimised mainframe environment is supporting more than the cloud, adds Babu. “Now we are seeing increasing interest around mobile and the mainframe too. Clearly as long as we keep innovating on the mainframe, it will always remain relevant.”