Christopher O’Malley, Compuware’s CEO, cites some recent, extremely interesting economic analysis from Dr. Howard Rubin. Rubin studied various businesses to look at IT productivity: how much value are they getting for their IT spending? And how does that value vary depending on where they spend their IT dollars (and euro, and yen, etc.)? In particular, if they emphasize mainframe-based IT, how much “bang for the buck” do they get versus mainframe avoidance?

The answer is that “mainframe heavy” businesses simply get a lot more bang for the buck.

As examples, when Rubin looked at retailers, he found that the mainframe-based companies averaged $194.09 in total IT spending per SKU (stock keeping unit). In contrast, retailers that relied more heavily on distributed servers spent an average of $252.27 per SKU on IT. Among insurance companies, the mainframe-oriented insurers spent $56 on IT per claim, and the distributed server heavy insurers spent $92 on IT per claim. There’s also some evidence that the value gap is widening, and Rubin offers some interesting hypotheses explaining why that might be happening including “starburst effects” associated primarily with fast growing mobile interactions.

O’Malley argues strongly in favor of the “post-modern mainframe.” I like that term. I would interpret the post-modern mainframe (and modern enterprise architecture) as:

  • the centralized (or re-centralized!) enterprise System of Record;
  • also acting as the enterprise security hub providing common security services;
  • still running well maintained, progressively enhanced and encapsulated, concurrent batch and online business logic of whatever vintage(s) that still has value to the business;
  • with additional, popular run-times and expanded cloud capabilities;
  • with additional, on-platform System of Engagement and System of Interaction capabilities (including especially real-time/every-time analytics);
  • closely paired with cloud-based System of Engagement and System of Interaction capabilities where they make sense.

Technically that’s not hard to do, really. Much of this formula you get if you simply stay reasonably current in your software versions. For example, you get the WebSphere Liberty Profile with the latest CICS Transaction Server releases. O’Malley is optimistic that leading companies are abandoning the “hairball” deployment architectures. There’s some evidence of that.

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