The outlook is cloudy…


So the catchy title is not a prelude to a blog about IBM’s Weather Channel acquisition a few months back, although I do think thats pretty cool and something I defiantly need to know more about, but rather a view of how I see the mainframe market evolving over the next few years.

The push from the C-suite down in to their IT organisations is “Cloud is the answer… whats the question?”.  Increasingly as I talk to clients the push is for a Cloud first strategy, and that proposing on premise infrastructure not delivered in a cloud model is a pre-cursor to the proposal ultimately getting kicked back by the senior execs as not aligning with the strategy of the corporation.  So with this in mind how is the market evolving and what models are emerging when it comes to cloud and the mainframe.

The first model is a shift to move from an on premise single tenant model, to one where the infrastructure is delivered from an off premise location and where the workload resides in a multi-tenant environment. Why are we seeing this trend emerging?  Well first its in-line with the C-Suite objective of getting out of the datacenter and owning infrastructure business that many IT shops are in today.  Secondly another driver is the need to address the skills gap for the mainframe, now as many of you know I am a massive proponent of the Master the Mainframe and our wider Academic Initiative, and I also championed the Summer Intern program at the Open Mainframe Project, but for some shops this is too little too late to address their needs.  By this I don’t mean that these programs have little merit or too late in their delivery, quite the opposite.  What I do mean is, that unless a shop has strategically invested in skills development, as many have, then it takes time to build the skills required, and in some cases as long as 5-years.  If the strategy of building skills hasn’t been made then clients can see skills gaps ahead…  The final driver is the need to move from CapEx to OpEx.  Buying and owning infrastructure however creatively financed puts a burden on an organisation, whereas renting space in the cloud provides flexibility, its often as simple as that for some clients.

Now the model above won’t surprise you, but some other models are emerging that are worth sharing.  Firstly the move to Microservices being provided by a mainframe back-end and available over the public cloud.  Take the IBM Blockchain Secure Business Network, this is a highly secure micro service available via IBM BlueMix so that organizations can start to explore the use of Blockchain but also do it in a way that leverages IBM LinuxONE, the industry’s most secure and available Linux server which is based on z Systems technology.  Expect to see more in this space as the need for highly secure, available micro services emerges as the next evolution of public cloud…

The third major trend would be for Hybrid cloud mainframe models to emerge.  We are already seeing a need for clients to burst test and development environments out to off-premise mainframe cloud environments, as well as clients looking for DR-aaS.  Expect these model to crystalise in coming months and a blurring of the lines between on-premise and off-premise delivery models…

All in all the outlook for the Mainframe is cloudy with a chance of disruption…

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