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The Gen Xer's Guide to the Mainframe Part III

A newly appointed young IT director is set on migrating his company away from the mainframe, only to research and be won over by all the selling points of the IBM System z platform.

Note: This is the third article in a three-part series. The first two ran in the May and June EXTRA e-newsletters.

With IT baby boomers beginning to retire, Generation Xers, those born after 1964, are next in line to inherit the legacy of the worlds IT infrastructure. This article describes a story, in which 41-year-old Ben, the newly anointed IT Director of Empire Health Services, a fictional health company, gets his introduction to the world of the mainframe.

Ben, a graduate of a prestigious university, learned all about distributed systems while getting his MIS Degree. In addition, his first several positions were with companies that relied on distributed systems and networks. His last company had mainframe systems, but he only managed the midrange and had no exposure to them at all. Ben has just accepted an offer to lead the technology for Empire Health Services, one of the largest healthcare companies in the world, and has discovered there is more to IT than networks and midrange UNIX and Linux servers. For the first time he’ll now need to understand the mainframe. His plan is to get his employer converted to Linux—the OS he loves and learned about during his graduate studies. Ben loves open systems. Ben’s resume already included a migration effort from UNIX to Linux, and his first thought was to do this migration here as well. He would modernize this company and set them on “the right track,” or so he envisioned.

In the previous articles in this series, Ben researched the history of the mainframe and focused on cost efficiency. Now with his research complete, Ben makes his conclusions to the future of the mainframe in his business.

The Future

Armed with all of this new information, Ben realized that the mainframe has a bright future. In fact, the numbers seem to bear this out. He found out that in 2006, mainframe revenue outgrew Windows revenue. In fact, during the fourth quarter of 2006, mainframe hardware sales were the largest seen since 1998. The driving factor was the mainframe’s capability to run Linux and Java applications. In fact, the mainframe market grew 8 percent in 2006 and he found that all current signs point to the fact that the z10 may drive sales even higher. Further, IBM mainframe revenue had increased in 5 of the past 7 quarters.

Ben’s research also determined that thousands of companies have built around the mainframe and new ones continue to do so. Some of the drivers include reliability, availability, energy savings, improved resource utilization, performance and manageability and security. Ben always imagined a world where he could sleep at night knowing that viruses wouldn’t infect his data. Furthermore, huge companies in all types of industries including healthcare, financial and retail are hopping on the mainframe bandwagon. IBM had claimed more than 200 21st century customers, consumers who had never even purchased an IBM mainframe before the turn of the century. This statistic was particularly eye opening to Ben.

Even IBM is stepping up to the table, consolidating all of its internal systems to the mainframe. This includes more than 3,900 distributed servers migrating to 30 System z mainframes running Linux—with preliminary estimates showing that the solution will consume 80 percent less energy than their previous distributed model solutions.

IBM Mainframe Success Stories

Furthermore, as of 2006, more than 1,700 mainframe customers were running Linux, including Nomura securities of Japan, one of the largest public companies in the world. Many companies were even moving to the mainframe for their ERP and Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) software. Jiangling Motors, working with IBM Global Services—moved to SAP software to drive their SRM system. They moved to IBM not only because of the technology, but also because of their consultants who, they stated, “really understood our business sector and have excellent project management skills; moreover the technical know-how of IBM as an organization is second to none.” Other success stories included:

  • Nexxar Financial reduced operating costs by 30 percent by moving to z/OS and DB2.
  • Aurora Health Care built its Web portal using WebSphere on the System z platform.
  • Home Depot moved to the IBM mainframe to simplify its architecture and improve on-demand processes.
  • First National Bank of Omaha moved to the mainframe for reliability, scalability and a simplified infrastructure.
  • The University of Pittsburgh saved $40 million by consolidating on the System z platform.

Ben was astonished to read that the Oracle database was also available on Linux on System z. He also read about recent enhancements to PeopleSoft, the E-business Suite and Siebel CRM. Ben was even able to download some information on PeopleSoft and mainframes from some recent user conferences, like SHARE. This really impressed him, as did the business partner relationships that IBM established with their mainframe solution providers. One example of this was his experience with Infinity Systems Software, one of the most well-known System z partners in the Northeast. Ben had heard about this IBM business partner from one of his staff members, established a conversation with some of the folks there and quickly educated himself more on the mainframe without any obligation or pressure to buy anything. Imagine a VAR that would actually spend time with you, knew their product and wanted to educate you—without any obligation.


Ben now realized that he could move to Linux, but on the IBM mainframe—while at the same time stay on the Java development platform that he was most comfortable with. He felt confident that the IBM mainframe poised the best of both worlds—open system flexibility; rock-solid infrastructure; reliability, performance and scalability—features always at the core of the IBM mainframe. Ben’s research helped him as an IT director better understand why the mainframe didn’t die and what market forces are keeping it alive today. In fact, it suggested to him that the mainframe has a very bright future.

Ben’s next steps are to implement a mainframe solution using IBM’s System z platform. Read future installments to find out what he learns about mainframe capabilities along the way.

New to the System z platform? For more information, go to


IBM Redbook “Introduction to the New Mainframe: z/OS Basics
IBM Redbook “IBM System z Strengths and Values
IBM Redbook “Introduction to the New Mainframe: Security
IBM Redbook “z/OS Intelligent Resource Director
Project Big Green


Ken Milberg, CATE, PMP, is a diverse IT Professional with 20+ years of experience. He is a Power Systems Champion. Ken is a technology writer and site expert for techtarget and has also been a frequent contributor of content for IBM developerWorks. Ken has also been a freelance writer for IBM Systems Magazine and is a former technical editor. He can be reached at



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