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Big Iron Deserves a New Storyline in Big Data Narrative

It may be time for editors of online IT publications to retire an old reliable storyline that they tend to reach for on slow news days.  This particular storyline usually comes with a questioning headline like:  Is the Mainframe Still Relevant?  (Or some such variation.) It’s a rhetorical question, and apparently it’s still good for a few clicks.  But it is awfully short-sighted.

The fact is that, notwithstanding the swarm of smaller, heterogeneous systems that have emerged since the dawn of Big Iron more than half a century ago, the mainframe has never been less than dominant when it comes to serious commercial data processing. It looks to become even more dominant as Big Data applications become more vital to the advancement of commerce and industry.  So a more realistic storyline would be:  Will the Mainframe Always Be the King of Data?

The mainframe was . . . is . . . and likely will remain . . . the gold standard for meeting two criteria that are uppermost in the minds of management of any enterprise that pours large chunks of business-critical proprietary data into the hopper of a computer.  Security is one; availability is the other.  No generally available processing system has yet to match IBM mainframe standards in setting the outer limits for those two essentials.

No surprise, then, that overwhelming majorities of IT professionals at global enterprises have hailed the mainframe as the go-to platform for Big Data adoption. ­­­ That’s one of the things that emerged from a recently completed survey of strategic planners, directors/managers, architects, and administrators working in IT at global enterprises with $1 billion or more of annual revenues. Magazine publisher Enterprise Systems Media, along with Syncsort, conducted the survey.

Of 187 respondents, more than four out of five (83 percent) cited security and availability as the key mainframe strengths. Four out of five (79 percent) use the mainframe for real-time analysis of transactional data. More than two-thirds (69 percent) rated the mainframe as “very important” for large-scale transaction processing. Plus, in meeting service-level agreements (SLAs) and complying with all manner of measurements imposed by industry and government, the mainframe far outranked other platforms.   Go here for a full read-out of the State of the Mainframe survey results.

Mainframe Availability
According to a survey conducted by Enterprise Systems Media in partnership with Syncsort, more than 83% of respondents cited availability as a key mainframe strength .

Without question, the mainframe has been eclipsed in the public mind by all the shiny objects that have spilled out in such profusion from IT’s cornucopia, but that’s not the same as losing relevance.  And now, Big Data may be making Big Iron the biggest shiny object in the land.

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