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Mainframe use on the rise despite sky-high software licensing costs

A recent BMC Software survey found that the mainframe platform is healthy and growing, although software costs are still a major concern.

A recent BMC Software Inc. survey of 1,100 mainframers found that 65% expect the platform to grow, and about half plan to increase their mainframe hardware and software budgets over the next year.

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Released at the Share user group conference in San Jose, the results confirm that the mainframe platform is hardly dead; and in fact, it's seen a resurgence.

"As we continue to grow our environment, we're looking at trying to put together a plan to bring in two (System) z9s," said Paul Baquet Jr., a senior systems analyst at Duke Health Technology Solutions and survey respondent. "In the last two to three years, we've realized that doing business on the mainframe was a very sound idea."

The mainframe platform is hardly dead; and in fact, it's seen a resurgence.

The survey polled its mainframer sample about various issues. About 75% of the 1,100 respondents were BMC customers while the remainder were readers of z/Journal, a mainframe-focused magazine.

Additional findings
The survey unveiled other interesting trends:

  • 95% of respondents said the mainframe platform will grow this year, compared with 52% last year.
  • Compared with 2006, fewer respondents face a declining mainframe investment (a decrease from 21% down to 15%), while more are increasing it (an increase from 55% to 61%).
  • 87% of large shops are concerned about their data centers' energy consumption.
  • Software costs still remain a huge concern, consuming about 40% of mainframe budgets.
  • Almost 60% of those that plan to eliminate their mainframe environment plan to do so in the next three years. Although that figure is a decrease from 74% last year, it is still significant.

Mike Spencer, a BMC Software product manager, said the survey illustrates a persistent trend: While larger mainframe shops are increasing their investment in the platform, smaller shops are shrinking it.

"We've got these two opposite spectrums," he said.

Vince Re, the chief software architect for CA, said last year that it's possible the overall number of mainframe customers is shrinking, even as total million instructions per second (MIPS).

Spencer said there are ways to combat high software costs on the mainframe. One way is to bundle applications to get a better deal. Another is to use subcapacity pricing that charges users for how many MIPS is actually used rather than how many MIPS they could potentially use.

Duke Health is a big DB2 shop, and is looking at another approach, Baquet said. By pushing some DB2 workloads off their central processors and onto a z Integrated Information Processor (zIIP), they won't incur expensive software licensing charges.

"Anytime you look at trying to upgrade the mainframe, there are always costs associated with doing that," he said. "Third-party software costs are always a big issue."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer. You can also check out our Mainframe Propeller Head blog

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