Enterprise mainframe solutions in 2021 - why are they still being used?

Enterprise mainframe solutions in 2021 - why are they still being used?

Author: Viktor Lebedinets

18 Nov 2021

Enterprise mainframe solutions in 2021 - why are they still being used and are there any alternatives?

Mainframe languages like COBOL, FORTRAN, Pascal, Java, Basic, and Algol are the 3rd generation procedural High-Level Languages, which have to be compiled into machine language to execute the program. They were first developed more than 40 years ago to serve the needs of high-power computational facilities in airports, banking systems, educational institutions, and other organizations running high-load mainframe architectures.

The point is — they are still actively used 40 years later. Despite Go and Ruby, Python and React strengthening their positions and cloud computing offering an alternative to mainframe infrastructures, some enterprise mainframe solutions will remain as they are. This means they need to be maintained and updated if possible, which poses several issues. Read on to learn how to handle mainframe enterprise solution challenges best in 2022.

Cloud computing — a worthy alternative?

The core goal of mainframe architecture is to provide near-limitless data storage, computational power, and multitasking. Cloud computing provides it all off the bat, but the problem here is the data transfer speed.

Unless an organization hosts an on-prem cloud solution, they have to use an Internet uplink to access their data storage and operate them. This limits the system performance down to the Ethernet channel throughput capacity, be it 10Gbps or 100 Gbps. Let’s take a closer look at the pros of such a mainframe alternative:

  • PAYG. The Pay As You Go billing model ensures you don’t pay for idling resources
  • Scalability. You can scale your infrastructure up and down with ease when the need be
  • Security. Cloud computing comes with cutting-edge cybersecurity measures and tools
  • Interoperability. Using modern solutions makes integrating the latest tools with them quite simple

Let’s now take a look at some of the disadvantages:

  • Bandwidth limitations. As mentioned above, unless you build an on-prem cloud ecosystem, your data processing speed is limited by the capacity of your Internet uplink. This limits the speed of Big Data analytics, training Machine Learning models, and building Artificial Intelligence algorithms. Well, the existing 1Gbps and 10Gbps bandwidth options should suffice for most of your needs...
  • I/O throughput. Mainframe computers are built to provide near limitless computational power, while cloud solutions rely on combining the resources of multiple CPUs for that. Some tasks, like huge database queries, are not done well by a cluster of small machines and are best executed by a single monolithic mainframe.
  • Complexity. Operating an on-prem cloud solution is a chore in itself, involving significant expenses on component replacement and staff training.

To wrap it up, despite cloud computing becoming more and more popular recently, it is still not a silver bullet, and enterprise mainframe solutions are here to stay, for the next 5-10 years at least.

Why are mainframe systems still used?

The simplest explanation is that they still get the work done. A banking system mainframe might require some serious adjustments to support innovative tech like mobile payments, cryptocurrency, or NFT transfers — but it still processes millions of transactions per minute and ensures the security of operations.

We’ve touched a pain point of many enterprise executives: they need to ensure mainframe solutions that support their mission-critical operations can adapt to the innovations of the 21st century without disrupting their normal operations. Doing this requires a very specific set of skills, which is not easy to come by on a modern IT job market.

First of all, there are lots of Python, Java, Ruby, or PHP courses, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find some IT school that teaches FORTRAN or COBOL.

Secondly, while the task of integrating something like mobile payments into airport mainframe infrastructure is of humongous importance, it is actually not so long to implement. This means you need to find a very rare specialist, who will do their job in several months, and whom you will have to keep on standby just in case — or part ways and risk not having them at hand the next time you need them.

Solution: IT outsourcing

The situation above is a classic picture for IT outsourcing, and it is, indeed, the best solution for mainframe maintenance and development. IT outsourcing/outstaffing agencies like Spintech have long ago hired mainframe development experts or invested time and effort into training them internally.

This enables Spintech to assist and provide value to enterprises from day one, instead of forcing you to spend 5-6 months looking for a relevant expert. You get the mainframe development services you need, and can either sign-up for hands-on maintenance monthly, or lend the expert once again whenever needed. A continuous influx of such contracts forms a win-win situation for all parties.

Should you have any additional inquiries or want to discuss the details of your mainframe development project — contact us, Spintech is always ready to help!