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Large companies have not weaned themselves off their legacy mainframe systems because it is too difficult or expensive but because there are no superior alternatives. The computing power of the mainframe has let companies expand their operations to a global scale. For many organizations, the mainframe has been as much an agent of change as of legacy stability.

Continued investment in mainframe systems is not throwing good money after bad. Mainframes have helped fuel the growth of global enterprises over the past 50 years and are poised to serve as the computation foundation of the next 50. Mainframes help shape the world by staying on the cutting edge of digital transformations. There are a number of reasons that mainframes have been the technological backbone of big businesses for so long.

Deeply embedded in business and government

Many large businesses and government entities have been using mainframes for years – perhaps as long as they’ve been around. They are mission critical hardware and are deeply embedded in day-to-day operations and are critical for helping those organizations provide their day-to-day services. As long as mainframes keep up their reliability and accessibility, the businesses that rely on them will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

No natural replacements

Distributed computing and the cloud have long promised to replace the mainframe. The theory is that an ever expandable server farm can perform the same tasks at a lower cost. Recently, TechTarget reviewed the pros and cons of mainframes vs. distributed computing and found that mainframes still perform most tasks faster and more efficiently.

“Mainframes use virtualization and provisioning techniques to share resources and drive up utilization rates. Physical distributed systems share nothing, resulting in very low x86 server utilization rates (in the 5% to 10% range) as compared with 100% sustained utilization rates on mainframes. Even as distributed systems embrace virtualization and provisioning techniques, it is still rare to find an x86 server that runs at more than 40% utilization or a RISC server that exceeds 70% utilization.”

Therefore, even though distributed servers can complete many of the same tasks as a mainframe, they do so slower and less efficiently.

Run new and legacy code and programs with equal ease

Part of what has helped mainframes stay around for so long is that they are always fresh. They run both modern and legacy applications with ease, making it possible for companies to modernize their software and adopt new technologies without having to give up other programs on which they have come to depend. A recent survey found that 72% of IBM mainframes currently support mobile and web applications. This includes applications like online banking, hotel and airline booking systems, and insurance companies that generate quotes on the web. By being able to support legacy code as well as modern applications, the mainframe lets businesses have their cake and eat it too.

Ready for Big Data

More data has been generated in the past year than in the past 100 years. They have the processing power to manage and make sense of data generated by the Internet of things. Mainframes are well suited for dealing with high volume transactions and the kinds of heavy processing that will be required to make sense of the volumes of data generated in the coming years.

Mainframes are here to stay. They are collecting and processing increasingly valuable data. If your organization is running a mainframe, it is important to keep the data on the machines and the access to it secure. To learn more, you can read about ASPG’s suite of mainframe data security products or sign up for a free trial to see how the software can keep your systems safe from hackers and other digital threats.

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