Mainframe users are increasingly polarised, with larger organisations showing no signs of giving up their big iron but smaller firms looking at Unix and Microsoft, according to a survey of IBM mainframe users.
The survey found that many large mainframe users were investing in mainframe integration, development and extension. They were, for example, installing "speciality engines" - chips with embedded Linux or Java code - to help cut costs by processing specific applications, such as customer relationship management or business intelligence, instead of leaving the mainframe to do all the work.
The biggest group, mid-sized mainframe users, were paying the highest price for their mainframe calculations (measured in mips).
Smaller users said they were eyeing other computing platforms, mainly Unix and Windows, with better price/performance.
Almost 75% of firms were using Linux, which IBM has been promoting on the mainframe as a cost-effective consolidation strategy.
Many organisations were using the latest mainframe hardware. More than 60% of sites had an IBM z990 or newer system installed, and 14% had the latest z9. There was also growing interest in Intel-based systems used to emulate mainframe software.
Mark Lillycrop, research analyst at Arcati, which conducted the survey, said, "There is a popular, if misguided perception of mainframes as outdated legacy systems, sitting in a back-office and slowly decaying. A substantial majority of our respondents are on the latest hardware.
"The IBM mainframe remains a platform of contrasts. On the one hand, it offers excellent performance and availability. On the other hand, it wrestles constantly with an image of excessive cost and complexity, of isolation and exclusivity, while distributed platforms appear to share applications and resources with relative ease. In the average enterprise datacentre, these two sides of the mainframe's image jostle for position."
Of the 92 mainframe users covered by the survey, more than 50% were from the banking, insurance and accounting sectors. IT companies accounted for 15% of users, with the public sector and manufacturing representing 11% and 8% respectively.
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This was first published in July 2006