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The Top Mainframe Predictions for 2020

Authors Photo Precisely Editor | February 14, 2020

The mainframe computer has been around for more than a half-century now, and in defiance of the expectations of many tech pundits, it continues to play an indispensable role in today’s IT landscape. In doing so, it’s had to adapt to many waves of technological change over the years. 

The pace of innovation continues to accelerate. What will that mean for the venerable mainframe in 2020? Let’s pull out the old crystal ball and see if we can discern what the future holds for the mainframe in the coming months.

The mainframe will maintain its position atop the IT hierarchy

Mainframes have long been the platform of choice for mission-critical workloads, and that won’t change this year. Skillsoft reported in the last quarter of 2019: “Ninety-two of the world’s top 100 banks, all of the top 10 insurers, 18 of the top 25 retailers, 70 percent of the Fortune 500 and much of the world’s healthcare, finance, utilities, and governments rely on mainframe computer systems as the core of their organization’s information technology.”

That’s not likely to change any time soon. Recent predictions indicate that the global mainframe market will grow to $2.90 billion by 2025.

Mainframes will contribute to increased data security

A high level of data security is essential for compliance with regulatory mandates such as the European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) initiative. Yet only about 59% of enterprises surveyed in a 2019 data privacy study report that they are meeting GDPR requirements today. 

Mainframe predictions indicate that number can be expected to rise significantly as IBM z15 mainframe systems continue to expand their penetration into corporate data centers in 2020. That’s because the pervasive encryption capabilities of these machines can comprehensively protect data wherever it exists in the system without significantly degrading overall performance.

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Mainframe-based machine learning applications will flower

Artificial intelligence in general and machine learning in particular are rapidly going mainstream. Gartner projects that in the next several years at least 40% of new application development projects will have an AI component. That trend is already underway, and should only gain momentum in 2020. By porting its Watson machine learning technology to its z15 family of processors, IBM has positioned the mainframe to become an important participant in the AI/ML revolution.

Mainframe cost reduction through modernization will gain momentum

Reducing IT costs is a constant concern for almost every company. Yet the costs associated with the maintenance of legacy mainframe systems continues to increase, due in no small part to the continuing decrease in the availability of workers with the requisite skills. That’s why many companies have begun to aim their efforts, and their spending, away from simple maintenance and toward modernization.

Modernization initiatives that are expected to expand in 2020 include:

  • A growing embrace of DevOps in the mainframe environment
  • An increased focus on reducing mainframe MLC (monthly license charges) by offloading general processor CPU cycles to zIIP engines
  • Expanded use of modern open-source environments such as Linux, Docker, and Zowe

Zowe, a framework that provides a bridge between the mainframe and open-source worlds, will continue to be a boon to developers and operations specialists in 2020. It offers the promise of significantly reducing costs, and facilitating new mainframe development, by allowing those with no mainframe experience to use the industry-standard open-source tools they are already familiar with to access and control mainframe resources and services.

The mainframe skills problem will ease

One of the biggest challenges mainframe shops face is that the mainframe-literate workforce is diminishing daily as old hands reach retirement age. New entrants in the IT workforce typically arrive with little to no exposure to the mainframe environment.

There will probably never be an influx of new mainframe mavens into the IT workplace. But now that open source platforms and tools such as Linux, Zowe, Python, Java, and Git are allowing developers and operations professionals to leverage their existing expertise to interact with mainframes, mainframe predictions indicate the skills gap will become less and less of an issue.

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