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6 Industries That Stick with Mainframes and Why They Do

Authors Photo Ron Franklin | March 9, 2022

What do 96 of the world’s 100 largest banks, 90% of the largest insurance companies, 92% of the largest retailers in the United States, and 71% of the Fortune 500 have in common? They all continue to depend on mainframes for their most business-critical processing.

Despite a drumbeat of tech punditry that for years has declared the mainframe an all but obsolete technological relic in this age of distributed and cloud processing, leading companies in some of the world’s most vital industries continue to stake their futures on the fact that mainframes offer advantages that just can’t be matched by alternatives.

In this article we’ll take a brief look at some of those industries. And why for them, the mainframe continues to be an indispensable engine of competitiveness.

1. Banking

The dominance of the mainframe in banking and finance has never been seriously challenged. For these companies, which must flawlessly handle huge volumes of ATM, online, credit card, and back-office transactions every day, the mainframe’s unique combination of reliability, availability, security, scalability, and performance is critical.

2. Retail

Both traditional and online retailers rely on the mainframe’s unmatched ability to reliably and securely process enormous numbers of transactions each day. In addition, the ability of IBM z installations to scale in processing power as required is fueling the industry’s explosive growth in mobile transaction volumes.

3. Insurance

Insurance is a highly data-intensive sector, which makes it ideal for mainframes. According to IBM, almost all of the largest insurance companies in the world continue to employ mainframes to reliably and securely handle massive amounts of sensitive data.

4. Healthcare

The healthcare industry depends on the superior data security and auditability characteristics of IBM z mainframes, including pervasive encryption, to meet stringent regulatory compliance mandates.

5. Government

In the U.S., governments rely heavily on mainframes to support everything from federal agencies like the IRS and the military, to local departments such as police, fire, and public works. These applications require the type of security and 24/7 reliability that mainframes excel in providing. 

6. Travel and transportation

Ever since IBM developed SABRE (semi-autonomous business research environment) for American Airlines back in the 1960s, the travel industry has been heavily dependent on mainframes for everything from scheduling to ticketing and much more. Today, big data analytics is extending the usefulness of the mainframe into entirely new travel and transportation application areas.

What the mainframe brings to the table

The mainframe remains at the center the data processing universe in these industries, and many others, because its unique strengths remain unmatched by newer platforms. Take cost, for example. According to IBM, mainframes now handle 68% of the world’s production workloads, but only account for 6% of IT spending. In a recent five year span, IT costs at distributed server-centric companies rose 65% more than those in mainframe-dependent organizations.

In terms of vital metrics such as reliability, availability, security, scalability, processing power and speed, the mainframe has proven itself to be superior to competing platforms for many of the world’s most business-critical use cases. Additionally, today’s industries with mainframes are no longer isolated in their own proprietary world, but are compatible with modern languages and operating systems such as Python, JavaScript, Java, C++, Linux, Unix, and Windows.

To learn more about industries with mainframes and how they can maximize the potential of their mainframe, please download our white paper.