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Computing: The Mainframe Strikes Back

By Dick Weisinger

Do companies still use mainframes? Do people even remember what a mainframe is? The answer at least to the first question is ‘Yes’.

A Forrester report found that, of those companies that still use mainframes, they’re using mainframes even more than before. In 2018, 64 percent of them say that they’re running more than half their critical applications on mainframes, up from 57 percent in 2019.

But the qualification here is the survey looked at only those companies that use mainframes. How many businesses still use them? Well, a lot more than I thought. Statistics from IBM on their user base finds that:

  • 96 of the world’s top 100 banks, 23 of the 25 top US retailers, and nine out of 10 of the world’s largest insurance companies run IBM’s System z mainframes.
  • Seventy-one percent of global Fortune 500 companies use System z mainframes
  • Nine out of the top 10 global life and health insurance providers process their high-volume transactions on a System z mainframe,
  • Mainframes process roughly 30 billion business transactions per day, including “most major credit card transactions and stock trades, money transfers, manufacturing processes, and ERP systems

But will it last? Maybe, maybe not. IBM revenues from Z Series mainframes reported in the first quarter 2019 fell by 38 percent. Pretty significant. But analysts attribute the fall due to the imminent announcement of the new Z-series model, the z14.

To fight back against ever-capable cloud computing, IBM is also introducing cloud-like pay-per-use pricing for the Z-series computers.

Charles King, president of Pund-IT, wrote that “by making access to Z mainframes more flexible and ‘cloud-like,’ IBM is making it less likely that customers will consider shifting Z workloads to other systems and environments. As cloud providers become increasingly able to support mission critical applications, that’s a big deal.”

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