Need for ROI means users will not be replacing mainframes for years

Businesses are likely to continue running mainframes for up to a decade or longer, a study by IT marketing consultancy Vanson...

Businesses are likely to continue running mainframes for up to a decade or longer, a study by IT marketing consultancy Vanson Bourne has found.

In the Oracle-sponsored survey, 18% of the 300 UK users questioned said they were running mainframes - 68% of these had been using mainframes for 10 years or more. Of these users, 35% said they would not be looking to replace their mainframes over the next three years because they had invested too much in the systems to change them.

Jamie Anderson, programme director and researcher in the centre for management development at the London School of Business, said, "Many businesses made significant mainframe investments up until the mid-1990s." The cost of this investment needs to be written off over time before the company can reinvest in replacement systems, he said.

Anderson predicted that in some sectors, such as heavy industry, the cost of this investment may mean the mainframe could remain in use for another decade, but that this should not stop users looking for alternatives. Anderson said, "We are seeing a better understanding among organisations of how much a mainframe costs." He added that modern technology was far cheaper to install and maintain.

Anderson was confident users would still use the mainframe for extremely high-performance

applications which require a highly integrated approach to IT, but he said, "Only a handful of organisations will need a mainframe."

Meta Group analyst Rakesh Kumar expected further investment in mainframe applications over the next three years. In a recent report, "Mainframe skills: beware the real danger" he said, "Through 2007, mainframe users will need to deliver new functionality from their existing mainframe applications."

Kumar warned that most mainframe applications were legacy (written in PL/1, Cobol or Assembler, with insufficient documentation) and changes either at the core logic area or on the edges for integration would require in-depth legacy language skills and sufficient knowledge of the target application environment.

In the Meta report Kumar said, "Users need to be very wary of the application-specific skill problem… We advise users to clearly assess their application-specific skill gaps and invest in team-focused training during the next three or more years."

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