Although mainframes are capable of processing over millions of transactions per second (much more, in fact, than the typical volume of searches on Google), they are largely viewed as unfashionable hardware.
Yet, despite generally being considered legacy technologies, you can plan on them being around for a while. This is because many companies are still using these behemoths, and in certain cases, actively purchasing new machines. Why?
Mainframes are crucial components of day-to-day operations in industries that require large-scale batch and transaction processing. Some of these machines are capable of processing 2.5 billion transactions per day, which is why industries such as finance, government, retail, healthcare, and insurance still rely on them today.
Mainframe as a Service
As much as CIOs would like to replace these legacy high-performance machines with more modern solutions such as cloud computing, they are reluctant because of budget constraints. However, one solution providing both cloud and necessary storage capabilities is a viable alternative: mainframe as a service (MaaS).
MaaS, like other IT service platforms, is typically offered through a third-party vendor who provides the IT infrastructure, support, and maintenance. Customers pay only for the amount of services they use and any special coding required as part of their batch processing.
With a MaaS solution, there is none of the overhead associated with needing large amounts of energy and real estate for the machines themselves, nor the hassle of having to constantly be on top of the latest security patches because the vendor rolls that into the service offering.
Lower Barrier to Entry Versus Traditional Data Migration
Traditional data migration to cloud platforms can create considerable challenges for organizations concerned about support for legacy systems, security, and budget. In addition, compliance concerns often rank high on the list of barriers to adoption.
Traditional data migration is typically concerned with security and compliance issues. There is still a persistent perception that the cloud is less secure than warehousing data on premises. There are also concerns about compatibility with legacy systems and costs associated with temporary downtimes if access to the relevant systems is in the cloud.
And cost is still a huge concern for those who write checks, given that they have already made considerable expenditures for existing hardware, software, and IT staff to run them.
A MaaS migration presents a much lower barrier to entry and greatly reduced financial costs associated with new capital expenses for mainframe maintenance and purchases, hiring new staff, and dealing with compliance snafus. In many cases, MaaS vendors are running the same servers as their clients, making migrations smoother when hardware is apples to apples.
Benefits of MaaS
One of the often-overlooked benefits of mainframe as a service is that as the technology gets older, so do the staff with the required skills to maintain it. This invites unnecessary risk. One estimation pointed out that between 35-40 percent of the workforce trained on mainframes could retire in any given year, suggesting an impending abrupt breakdown of these systems that is likely to be very costly to recover from if not properly staffed.
By leveraging the services offered by a good MaaS vendor, the IT department can take advantage of mainframe innovations and avoid maintenance costs—a major benefit for organizations already struggling with the costs of training IT personnel and upkeep of on-site mainframe assets.
The financial benefits of using MaaS providers become even clearer if you consider that your organization can keep pace with modernization while staying on-budget for a number of reasons. You get the benefits of a state-of-the-art infrastructure without having to pay for it outright.
The flexibility to scale up or down based on the requirements of your organization means you can run a leaner business. This pay-as-you-go model means you can budget for more predictable capital expenditures over longer periods of time. In addition, the expense associated with being staffed 24/7/365 is greatly scaled down or eliminated altogether by partnering with a third-party vendor to provide MaaS capabilities at your business.
Global IT spending was around $3.5 trillion in 2017—about the same size of the fourth largest economy in the world: Germany.
Finance departments are constantly struggling with the best way to invest these resources as either CapEx (capital expenditures) or OpEx (operational expenditures). Capital expenditures tend to require much higher funding levels because the spending goes toward fixed IT assets requiring periodic maintenance and upgrades over time. Then there is the cost of depreciation to consider.
On the other hand, OpEx spends are typically used up in the year they are budgeted for. Also, unlike CapEx spending, they are often tax deductible each year, making them more attractive and easier to keep track of when it comes to your bottom line. MaaS spending often falls under the OpEx umbrella.
Partnering with a quality, reliable MaaS provider also reduces the need to upgrade mainframe infrastructure, which can put a significant dent in financial resources over time. There is also less worry when it comes to finding staff qualified to operate and troubleshoot complex mainframe systems.
Partnering with a Mainframe as a Service provider often makes a lot of sense when it comes to such benefits as ensuring compliance requirements are met, operations flexibility, scalability, and cost containment, to name a few.
Switching over to a MaaS provider may not be for every business, but if you operate in certain industrial sectors and have very large batch processing requirements, utilizing the benefits of this solution to modernize your legacy technology and remain competitive may be the right decision to make.