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Magazine Reader Survey Reveals Top Concerns Among Mainframe Users

IBM Systems Magazine

From understanding security to managing costs to finding talent, the 147 readers who responded to a recent IBM Systems Magazine, Mainframe edition, reader survey cited a variety of business challenges that were top of mind. When given the opportunity to explain their top business challenge in an open-ended question, they also pointed to holding down costs, and convincing management and clients that the mainframe is superior and thriving.

Several concerns around security were top of mind, which isn’t surprising given that 54 percent of respondents currently deploy security solutions and another 8 percent say they plan to do so within the next 12 months. In their security-related answers to the business challenge question, they specifically wanted to better understand how to maximize their level of mainframe security.

They are also struggling to convince upper management of the risks behind a security breach—after all, mainframe’s high level of security is one of the key features for the platform. If higher-ups can’t grasp what can happen on less-secure platforms, they won’t understand why the mainframe is so important when it comes to security defenses.

“Security: making executives and management understand the risks and impact of a security breach.”

IBM’s Nick Sardino, program director, IBM Z* Offering Management, offered some advice for those looking to convince management of the value of the platform’s security. “Security is architected into the entire platform from the microprocessor and firmware, the hypervisors and OSs, and all the way into the applications and middleware,” he says. The IBM Z platform also delivers security at an 81 percent lower cost and is 8x more resistant to security threats than competitive platforms, according to Sardino.

While the IBM Z high level of security is reassuring, it’s important for clients to also employ security best practices. This means implementing pervasive encryption, multifactor authentication and conducting regular audits of security controls including identity governance. “Even with the rich security features of IBM Z, organizations should apply the same security practices to their mainframe as they do to the rest of their environment,” Sardino says.

Cost and Skills

While readers fully understand the value of the mainframe, convincing others—especially management—is a whole new ballgame; they need some selling points, and they need more information.

Paul Gandolfo, principal performance analyst, Ericsson, elaborates on his struggle with reducing mainframe costs. “Over the last five to 10 years, our company has focused on reducing mainframe costs. But now, it’s a combination of reducing costs and/or trying to get off the mainframe,” he says. “I love the platform, but for these migration attempts to stop, I think IBM really needs to focus on reducing mainframe costs. This could be as simple as IBM allowing people to run more workloads on IBM z Integrated Information Processor and IBM zEnterprise* Application Assist Processor, or clarifying mobile workload pricing.”

Mainframe costs might seem higher than other platforms, but that’s not really the case when you drill down into specifics, according to Sardino. “If organizations take a true and honest approach to evaluating their IT platform costs, especially when putting the total cost in the context of a business metric—for example cost per transaction—they will likely find that the IBM Z platform delivers value at a much lower cost,” Sardino explains. “This means not focusing on acquisition costs of hardware and software, but looking holistically at all operational costs.”

Keelia Estrada Moeller is the managing editor of IBM Systems magazine, IBM Z

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