Friday, October 30, 2015

BMC’s 2015 mainframe survey: Growth Opportunities for the Mainframe

By Bill Moran and Rich Ptak

BMC’s recently published results of their 2015 Mainframe survey[1] provides data supporting our views on existing mainframe (MF) growth opportunities. Over the 10 years BMC has conducted this survey, changes in markets, strategies and products meant some questions were dropped while others were added. The inconsistency prevents a fully detailed history of market evolution. However, it still provides key insights into an evolving market. We encourage a review of the complete survey. Here’s a quick sample of its results. 

Figure 1 (BMC Chart 3) identifies the reasons customers give for growing MF usage. (These results only include customers increasing their usage.) The largest group (56%) gave security strengths as the key factor for increasing usage. Second most important (55%) were the MF’s availability advantages. Taken together, these represent an important advantage and market opportunity.

Figure 1 Top Reasons for Capacity Growth

Security is hugely important. Target, Home Depot and Sony as well as others have suffered intrusions. The results have been disastrous. Target’s CEO lost his job. Sony and its executives were profoundly embarrassed when hackers published emails with comments crudely critical of some stars. We believe that if the board of directors of these companies knew they could have avoided this situation by moving key applications to a mainframe, they would have jumped at the chance. The risks rise dramatically as more users access mainframe-backed accounts and files via mobile devices. As this practice expands across industries, platform availability is critical. Customers won't tolerate long response times or unavailable servers; a company must respond quickly, or users will abandon them.

Next, two more reasons identified for increasing usage were the mainframe’s superior centralized data server (48%) performance and transaction thruput capabilities (45%).  Anyone considering creation of a centralized data server should evaluate the mainframe. Respondents view the mainframe as a heavy duty data server as well as the platform to handle very high transaction rates.

Figure 2 More Reasons for Capacity Growth

Figure 2 (BMC chart 5) identifies more advantages. Some 24%  of respondents find the cost of mainframe alternatives too high. While not true for every workloads, for the right ones the mainframe proves to very cost effective. Mainframe vendors should do more to promote customer experiences that refute stories of overly expensive mainframes by identifying specific mainframe-friendly workloads.

Figure 3 Most Important Business/IT Alignment Issue

Figure 3 (BMC Chart 12) documents more opportunities in Business/IT alignment, a widely felt need. Some 48% say that IT must respond faster to business requests. As IT becomes more integrated into enterprise activities, business unit demands for speedier service grow. Vendors helping IT to speed service creation and delivery have a ready market waiting.

Figure 4 New Java Program Development Driving Demand

Vendors offering mainframe Java development tools have a growing market. Figure 4 (BMC Chart 15) reveals that some 79% of respondents identify new development of Java apps as driving mainframe growth. COBOL’s mainframe dominance appears over, though the existing inventory of  programs won’t disappear quickly.

Figure 5 Linux used in Production Environments

Figure 5 (BMC Chart 17) shows that zLinux usage has more than doubled since 2006. Nearly ½ of respondents (48%) run Linux in production. IBM’s Linux strategy appears to have paid off. These figures don't include the impact of IBM's recently announced LinuxONE mainframes. Hopefully, they will next year.


BMC uses the survey to gain insight into the mainframe market as well as into the issues, problems, attitudes and concerns of customers as do many others. BMC's decision to publicly share a significant amount of the survey results is appreciated. A few suggestions for BMC's next survey. It would be interesting to include questions about other mainframe initiatives and products. For instance: What do Linux users think of IBM’s zLinux push? Are developers using specialized Linux mainframe clouds? Also, what's the prevailing opinion of the zOS mainframe development environment (IBM’s zPDT[2]) running on Linux x86 servers?

We have only hit a few of the highlights of BMC’s survey. Again, we recommend review of the complete study[3]. Anyone interested in the mainframe marketplace will find many of the results to be quite fascinating. Congratulations to BMC for its continuing investment in this survey. Other mainframe vendors would do well to study the survey carefully.