Mainframe Systems Maintain Dominance in the Digital Era
Mainframe systems continue to dominate major segments of the economy in the digital era, despite the rise of cloud infrastructure. These systems are especially crucial for high-performance and high-reliability applications, such as processing financial transactions. In fact, mainframe systems are estimated to handle 90% of credit card transactions. According to a Deloitte study, 71% of Fortune 500 companies still rely on mainframes, with 90% of executives expecting to expand their mainframe footprint.
One of the top concerns for mainframe users is security. A survey of mainframe and IT professionals found that 61% ranked security as their biggest challenge. While mainframe hardware is regularly updated, securing the software architecture is a complex task. Over the years, the addition of features and components has made mainframe applications increasingly brittle and complex. The inheritance of software architectures from decades ago also makes it difficult to modernize and secure these systems.
Despite these challenges, mainframe systems continue to power a significant portion of the infrastructure that supports the information economy. This poses a challenge for software development and security due to the monolithic nature of mainframes and the scarcity of mainframe technical expertise.
IBM Z Systems, Fujitsu’s GS series, and Unisys’ Libra servers are the most popular mainframe ecosystems. IBM Z Systems alone experienced 21% year-over-year revenue growth in 2022. However, sustainable growth can only be achieved if mainframe users find ways to make their infrastructure more secure and agile.
While some companies are transitioning their workloads to cloud infrastructure, the majority of business and IT executives still have a positive view of the future of mainframes. Migrating away from mainframes is a significant challenge, as these systems are deeply integrated into organizations and house critical data. Financial institutions, for example, need to carefully weigh the cost and benefits of migrating their mainframe systems.
The security controls provided by mainframes, such as user authentication and access controls, offer robust protection for the data held within. However, the complexity of software developed over several decades poses security risks and demands increased flexibility and agility. Rearchitecting mainframe software and transitioning to a hybrid cloud infrastructure can offer improved security and agility.
Modernizing mainframe infrastructure requires skilled professionals, but the demographic of highly specialized mainframe operators and engineers is rapidly shrinking. Finding the right people to maintain mainframes and respond to outages has become a significant challenge. Artificial intelligence (AI) can potentially help address this issue by mapping mainframe code to modern languages and assisting engineers in maintaining these systems.
In conclusion, mainframe systems continue to maintain dominance in the digital era, particularly in sectors that require high-performance and high-reliability applications, like financial transactions. However, ensuring the security and agility of these systems remains a top concern. Organizations must find ways to secure their mainframe software and embrace modernization techniques to navigate the evolving digital landscape effectively.