Friday, November 4, 2016

BMC Survey on the Status of the Mainframe

By Bill Moran and Rich Ptak
BMC has released the results of their 11th annual mainframe survey.  BMC partners with multiple other parties to collect data and to release the results (e.g. IBM Systems Magazine[1]). This assures they have input from a variety of sources, including non-BMC customers. The resulting expanded range of opinions increases the value of the data.

We review key results of the survey here. We may revisit the topic as additional information is made available. We commend BMC for conducting the survey. It performs a real service for the industry. Studying the results can provide significant insight into what is happening in the mainframe market.[2]

Key results

In our opinion, key conclusions from the survey are:

  1. If the “death of the mainframe” needed more debunking, this survey certainly does so.  It shows there will be no funeral services held for the mainframe anytime soon. Last year 90% of the survey respondents indicated they saw a long-term future for the mainframe. This year that number declined all the way to 89%. Not a statistically significant difference!
  2. The general population of companies, on average, keep more than 50% of their data on the mainframe.  70% of large organizations see their mainframe capacity increasing in the next 24 months.
  3. In large (and other) enterprises, Digital business appears to be driving higher mainframe workload growth.
  4. Smaller organizations are more likely to forecast declining use of the mainframe. 
  5. In contrast, those companies that are increasing their mainframe usage take a long term view of the mainframe and its value. They tend to be more effective at leveraging the platform. They want to provide a superior customer experience, hence they modernize operations, add capacity and increase workloads. They view mainframe security and high availability as critically important differentiators in today's market marked by escalating transaction rates, data growth and rapid response times. 

Other interesting insights

Linux usage on the mainframe broke through the 50% point this year. Its use has been growing steadily ever since a Linux initiative was launched when Lou Gerstner was IBM CEO. Last year, 48% of the survey respondents said that they had Linux in production; this year the percentage rose to 52%.

BMC divides organizations into three groups:

  1. The first group representing 58% of those surveyed say that mainframe usage in their organization is increasing.
  2. The second group (23%) say that usage is steady.
  3. The third group (19%) say that usage is reducing.
We did not do an exhaustive analysis of the differences between the increasing, steady and reducing groups. However, it is worthwhile to sketch a view of some differences between the reducing usage group and the increasing usage group.

In the first place, many reducers indicate that their management believes the mainframe is outdated. This results in pressures to abandon the platform. Thus, their focus is removing workloads. This group is also more concerned about a mainframe skills shortage. Their solution to that problem is, again, to remove workloads thus reducing mainframe platform dependencies.

In contrast, managers of the group that is increasing usage do not appear to believe the mainframe is obsolete. Therefore, there is no pressure to move off the platform. In fact, they actively seek to move new work onto the mainframe. While also concerned about a mainframe skills shortage, their response is to provide internal training and invest in automation wherever possible. Neither outsourcing nor moving workloads off the platform are viewed as viable solutions to a skills shortage.
Figure 1 Top Mainframe Priorities – Chart courtesy of BMC
Next, of interest were respondent priorities. The top priorities for 2016 as identified in the survey include:
  1. Cost reduction/optimization – 65%
  2. Data privacy/compliance/security – 50%
  3. Application availability – 49%
  4. Application modernization – 41%.

Number 5 on the list “Becoming more responsive to our business”, is not given a percentage. We estimate (see Figure 1) it at 38%. We found this somewhat surprising. With all the focus on the digital enterprise and business, we would have thought that this would be at least #3 on the list. Like we said, interesting data comes from the study.

Future Possible Questions

As a quick aside, there are many possible questions to explore. We encouraged mainframers to participate in the survey. Going a step further, put your suggestions in ‘comments’ to this blog. Or, tweet them with the hashtag #PtakAssocMFQ. We will track the results and share them with BMC before the next annual survey.

To start things off, we have a few suggestions for future survey topics:

  1. How many projects were undertaken to move work off the mainframe? What were the results? What were the factors contributing to the project’s success or failure?
  2.  Is (and how much is) the mainframe integrated into the overall datacenter operations? Or, is it an isolated island with mostly batch methods of integration?  
  3. How many organizations are using IBM’s z/PDT, which simulates a mainframe on a PC or X86 system for development?
  4. What is the progress of DevOps modernization? This might connect to the previous point as z/PDT is Linux based and many developers prefer to use Linux tools, but also need access to mainframe data to test their applications.
Of course, we understand that there are many logistical problems in putting together a survey of this type. For example, there is a practical limit on the number of questions that one can ask. However, the answers to these would be enlightening.


The survey provides significant value to the mainframe community with insights useful to mainframe users, vendors and service suppliers. It can help any mainframe-based organization to plan and optimize for the future. It highlights ongoing community problems even as it corrects conventional “wisdom”, i.e. the mainframe is alive and well. 

Finally, the survey is a valuable tool for understanding the state of the mainframe, its user concerns, needs and priorities. BMC may want to consider extending the reach of the survey to include other organizations, i.e. user groups such as Share. In the meantime, we suggest that you visit the BMC website to discover insights that you can successfully leverage and apply in your operations. 

[1] Note this is not corporate IBM.
[2] Study details available at