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MIPS growth a concern for mainframe shops

A survey of more than 1,500 mainframe users found that MIPS growth is a major concern, due to high software costs and the weak economy.

Reducing MIPS is one of the major priorities of mainframe users, due mainly to a weak economy and high software costs on the platform.

A recent survey found that almost half of large mainframe shops – defined as those running more than 10,000 MIPS (millions of instructions per second), a common gauge of mainframe platform size – said that reducing MIPS growth was a top priority. Further, 84% anticipated MIPS growth in the next year, according to the survey, conducted by BMC Software Inc., a management software vendor.

Controlling and maintaining growth has always been a priority for IT shops, but it is especially important in the mainframe world, where software costs can quickly get out of control as a company grows and puts more work on big iron. In addition, the larger a mainframe shop gets, the more processors it must add, and that can come at a steep price.

"Not only do enterprises have to pay for the engines themselves, the added MIPS have a direct impact on capacity software licenses," said Robert Crawford, a lead systems programmer and member of's advisory board. "Buying another [central processor] can add thousands of software costs without so much as an upgrade or adding another user."

Telus Communication Co., one of Canada's largest telecommunications companies, has about 3,800 MIPS spread across seven mainframes running hundreds of applications. In addition to running its core apps on the mainframe, Telus also provides colocation and managed hosting services for customers, some running on mainframes.

Brad Palmer, an IT services director at the company, stressed that growth isn't necessarily bad. Growth, after all, "means we're getting more customers, so that's a good thing," he said.

But growth comes with a catch. Managing it is important so that growth can continue and the company can maintain a lower cost structure.

Palmer added that the weak economy has made cost even more of a focus. "The nice thing about mainframes is you can run them at higher utilization levels than on Unix or Intel platforms," he said. "You can really squeak every dollar out of the platform."

Some more details on the survey, which included about 1,500 mainframe users:

  • Two-thirds have aligned or plan to align their mainframe and distributed environments.
  • 65% said that IT-related energy consumption is under greater scrutiny than the prior year.
  • Other top priorities among mainframers included application modernization, disaster recovery, and server virtualization.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer. Also, check out our blogs: Data Center Facilities Pro, Mainframe Propeller Head, and Server Farming.

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