What's happening with Mainframes?

Issue 1, 2012 Download pdf

A snapshot from the Arcati Mainframe yearbook 2012

The Arcati Mainframe Yearbook, the self-described standard reference for mainframe professionals, recently released this past year’s survey revealing trends in MIP growth, hardware adoption, mainframe strategies, costs, etc. Each year, the Yearbook is downloaded by around 15,000 mainframe professionals. The current issue is available free of charge at www.arcati.com/newyearbook12.

This year’s survey confirmed that the trend towards integrating mainframe applications with Web services and service-oriented architecture continues, while cloud computing is the newest strategy to watch. One of the highlights revealed is that while mainframe sites continue to feel pressure to reduce costs, there are clearly many reasons to opt for the mainframe to support new development. The majority of survey respondents believe that their Unix and Windows user-support costs were increasing faster than the mainframe and most sites felt their maintenance and acquisition costs were higher on Windows and Unix than on System z. Below are a few additional highlights taken from the ARCATI Mainframe Yearbook 2012.


One hundred respondents, excluding software vendors and multiple entries from the same site, completed the survey. Fifty (50) percent were from North America, 40 percent from Europe, and 10 percent from the rest of the world.  Almost half (46 percent) of companies that responded have more than 10,000 employees.The overwhelming majority, 84%, were involved in running in-house data centers. 

This year’s survey saw a significant shift in the size of sites responding to the survey. Sixty two (62) percent had more than 1000 MIPS installed, with 22 percent having greater than 10,000 MIPS. Only 22 percent had less than 500 MIPS, which is down from last year’s figure of 45 percent.


The forecast for MIPS growth varied depending on the size of the sites.  Larger, more mature businesses (above 10,000 MIPS) were almost all experiencing some growth. Sites in the 1000-10,000 MIPS range were showing a range of results with some sites suggesting a decline while others predicted significant growth of up to 50%. Sites below 1000 MIPS were experiencing a more complex future, with most expecting small growth, but almost as many expecting no growth or negative growth.


New models were being adopted by larger sites to possibly take advantage of new features.  Twenty five (25) percent of respondents had moved onto z196 and z114 systems and only 13 percent (down from 30 percent) of the respondents were using older pre-z9 Systems. 

Specialty processors appear to be considered an integral part of a mainframe. Nearly three quarters of sites had them installed and were making use of the benefits associated with them.  Sixteen (16) percent of sites had all three specialty processors, 48 percent had zIIP processors, 36 percent had IFL processors, and 28 percent had zAAP processors.  Only 28 percent of sites (down from 36 percent) didn’t have a specialty processor installed.


Cloud Computing moved from an obscure concept to a known strategy with only 4 percent of respondents, down from a whopping 64 percent last year, responding “don’t know” about the role of Cloud Computing with their mainframe.  Twelve (12) percent of respondents said they currently use the mainframe for cloud computing and 22 percent claimed that some of their applications are using the cloud model.  Another 18 percent thought some mainframe applications would be cloud-enabled in the future.

Learn more about Software AG's Cloud Ready strategy, read Jonathan Heywood's article "Embracing the Cloud" in this issue of TECHniques.


Web services and SOA environments have been widely adopted on the mainframe as 64 percent of organizations said that their mainframes participate partly or fully in Web services, up from last year’s 52 percent.  Organizations continue to Web-enable their systems for CICS, DB2, IMS, etc. with percentage increases of 10 to 30 percentage points more than last year. Forty (40) percent, up from last year’s 30 percent, went on to say that they run Java-based applications on the mainframe and 44 percent of respondents (up slightly from last year’s 40 percent) said that they run Linux on the System z.

Learn how Software AG can help you modernize your mainframe to participate in SOA at www.itmodernization.com


Arcati asked what proportion of the total IT budget is absorbed by mainframe-related costs, and what proportion of enterprise data resides on the mainframe. The results, shown in figure 2, show that, for the first time ever, more than half of the respondents (56 percent) used other platforms to manage the lion’s share of the corporate data.  However, respondents’ spend on the mainframe versus distributed systems was disproportionate to the data split, with over 88 percent of budgets going off-mainframe. We have to concur with Yearbook author Trevor Eddolls’ summation that “the figures absolutely dismiss the view that System z soaks up financial resources without providing a good return on investment.”


The mainframe continues to serve as a strategic platform, especially for large and very large mainframe environments.  Specialty processors are quickly being adopted and the perception that mainframes are more expensive to maintain than Windows and Unix is being challenged.  As Trevor Eddoll’s so aptly states, “The bottom line is that the mainframe continues to offer a cost-effective, secure, and powerful platform for organizations with the necessary background and expertise in place to support it.”

The Arcati Mainframe Yearbook offers the most targeted insights about what mainframe users are experiencing today.  But with only 100 participants for a survey that sees more than 15,000 downloads, there appears to be a large disconnect between interest in mainframe trends and number of views shared about the mainframe experience. Share your mainframe experience—ask to participate in the next survey by visiting www.arcati.com or email mainframe@arcati.com.

Be sure to read “Why incremental process-driven IT modernization is relevant for your business” on page 4 of the ARCATI Mainframe Yearbook 2012 at www.arcati.com/newyearbook12