Top three predictions and a surprise for mainframe in 2017

How the mainframe is your partner in mission essential services for digital business innovation.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen the mainframe go through a digital transformation of its own – from a platform that supports transaction revenue to one that has become a source of revenue growth and innovation.

As we enter 2017, the mainframe will continue to become more connected in the enterprise, through Lean and Agile to deliver new mission essential services.  At the same time the mainframe is itself transforming from a systems of record into a hub for systems of intelligence and intelligent automation in the enterprise.

Finally, the power of the traditionally trusted attributes such as speed, security and high availability and new capabilities of the connected mainframe – all lead to the mainframe continued to being at the center of the next digital business innovation, but I’ll leave that to the end.

Prediction #1: Mainframe DevOps will evolve to Mainframe DevSecOps

The unification of development, security and operations is better known as DevOpsSec, SecDevOps or DevSecOps. Essentially this is about designing security into every level of the software development and delivery process.

It is easy to understand why factoring security into DevOps is especially crucial for mainframe, as clients indicate security is job number 1, 2 and 3 with 70 percent of corporate data residing on the mainframe. What is more complex is the data loss prevention and protection of private data throughout software delivery as well as production. Be it pre-production data, test data or transactional data, each software development entity must take security into account – otherwise orphaned or unknown data itself can become a dangerous backdoor for a potential breach.

Continuous delivery and DevOps on the mainframe is all about eliminating delays, wasted resources, improving handoffs – gaining a continuous feedback loop with the goal of reducing time-to-resolution. Simply put, “shift left” is about developing and testing in production like environments for finding problems quickly before it’s deployed to production.

Let’s extend this concept to security – security and compliance data can be invaluable in guiding the next iteration, planning test designs and ensuring that data is masked and protected. Ultimately it’s about gaining a high level of confidence that our mission-essential services will pass the next audit before services are even released into production.

Prediction #2: Mainframe as a service or mainframe cloud goes mainstream

Enterprises who depend on mainframe to run their mission critical systems and applications have “done it all” on mainframe cost management – use of IFL or ziip engines or simply software or vendor rationalization. Now, enterprises are looking for even greater savings and importantly flexibility and agility to enable their developers to leverage mainframe as part of the next generation business applications.

Mainframe as a service, which provides compute, storage and DevOps capabilities as self service and also allowing them either implement these in their own data center or leverage outsourcing providers to move the capex and expense management off the books while still reaping the benefits of mainframe’s performance and scale. IBM Cloud Managed Services on z Systems is an example of a opex based Mainframe as a Service; it is just another service in the hybrid cloud offering cloud-like benefits such as:

  • Ability to scale up or down according to their changing requirements
  • Access to advanced innovations coupled with built-in encryption, high availability & security
  • Predictable opex model and reduced TCO enabled by shared infrastructure
  • Self service for developers who may not mainframe skills


Prediction #3: Mainframe becomes the hub of systems of intelligence with algorithm based intelligent automation

With the gaining momentum of AI and machine learning and customer experience being pivotal to a company’s success, it’s never been more important for businesses to harness data to make those experiences smarter for true competitive differentiation. This growing use of predictive analytics and always-on mobile transactions is adding to LOB and IT’s pressures and their ability to handle complex and availability of systems combined with regulatory requirements.

The consequence? Consider the petabytes of IT logs and transactional data accessible easily in today’s datacenters; even if we had the right analytical tools and skills – the velocity and scale of changes will render traditional performance management (spanning mainframe, cloud and on-premise IT) humanly untenable.  The same machine learning and intelligent automation that delivers innovative consumer experiences can be applied to IT environments to transform IT operations.

In fact, what was previously “IT Operations Analytics (ITOA)” is morphing into a new category of “Algorithmic IT operations (AIOps) platforms” a coined termed by Gartner (IT Market Clock for IT Automation, Robert Naegle, September 2016).

For example, an intelligent mainframe is a type of an AIOps platform offering

  • Abnormal pattern detection to predict problems earlier
  • Fast problem isolation with insights from multiple data sources
  • Pattern recognition to trigger automated remediation of “known” issues
  • Operational feedback to guide next best action


The results? No finger-pointing & easier skills triage inside your data center.  Averted disruptions, and happy customers. Now isn’t that a goal to strive for in 2017?

So…now that I’ve delivered my three predictions for the mainframe in 2017, do you have any idea yet of what the surprise one might be?

Surprise prediction: Blockchain will cause a resurgence of interest in growing and innovating on the mainframe

The mainframe historically has been the workhorse of financial transactions and now with Blockchain gaining traction, the mainframe will be center stage.  Note also that Blockchain’s promise of accuracy and trust will disrupt industries well beyond finance, insurance and real estate, as discussed in this CB Insights article. You will soon be able to lease car in minutes with “point, click & drive” and your favorite musician will have a seamless way to stream her music and be paid fairly.

IBM z Systems platform is well poised to deliver this next generation of transactional applications. The advances in machine learning, intelligent automation and mainframe DevSecOps are essential drivers to deliver high availability and reliability, especially as organizations across various industries adopt blockchain to deliver a new era of speed and agility in their supply chains and transactional systems.

The clear advantage of innovating on the mainframe is that organizations can take advantage of the speed, cryptography and reliability of zSystems for hosting blockchain while seamless integrating with transactional data and applications already running on the mainframe. One test showed a 7-times increase in accessing business data from mainframe compared to x86 Blockchain infrastructure.

To learn more about Blockchain and the mainframe here via this demo on IBM’s website.

While no one can fully predict what kind of year it’s going to be, mainframe continues to be mission essential for enterprises and there are definitely many exciting things on the horizon as we enter 2017.

Ashok Reddy
Ashok is responsible for CA’s DevOps Line of Business including the Developer Products, Continuous Delivery,…


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