New Rocket Survey Underscores The Mainframe's Place In Modern Business Operation

Jeff Cherrington

March 29, 2022

Today, Rocket Software released its 2022 Survey Report: The State of the Mainframe, which surveyed over 500 U.S. IT professionals in firms using mainframes to uncover their priorities, challenges and plans for leveraging their mainframes going forward.

In an era of business fixated on digital transformation, where does the mainframe fit into modern operations? According to the survey, the mainframe is still a core facet of IT infrastructure, with 80% of IT pros reporting the mainframe remains critical to business operations. Keep reading for more of the report’s key takeaways, including how organizations are leveraging their legacy tech to overcome some of the most pressing challenges in business today.

The mainframe continues to dominate IT infrastructure

New technologies make big promises for digital transformation—but turns out most organizations aren’t leaving their legacy tools entirely behind in pursuit of these innovations. More than half (56%) of respondents say the mainframe still makes up the most of their IT infrastructure, followed by private cloud (20%) and distributed (15%). This dominance makes sense considering mainframes’ reliability, security and efficiency.

As with every technology though, businesses need to prioritize modernization to reap the most benefits from their mainframe. So how are IT leaders modernizing the mainframe for improved performance?

The survey reveals that modernizing in place—not ripping and replacing the mainframe—is the preferred method to update IT infrastructure. Specifically, respondents described their organizations’ current mainframe application and operations IT strategy as “modernizing in place” (56%), “operating as is” (27%) and “re-platforming” (17%). With these strategies, enterprises can upgrade system performance, deliver improved user experiences and integrate each layer of their tech stack without disruptive change initiatives.

Organizations are modernizing their mainframes to unlock new capabilities

When it comes to modernizing the mainframe’s capabilities and performance, businesses have numerous opportunities for improvement. One option is implementing DevOps functionalities to the mainframe. With CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous delivery), IT professionals can accelerate the code release process and help with deployment of new applications to improve value delivery for customers. Forty-four percent of respondents say their organization already uses multiple tools for DevOps functionality on mainframe applications (but it is not a complete DevOps platform) while 24% have a comprehensive platform for mainframe DevOps.

Businesses should also consider integrating their mainframe with the cloud, as leveraging the diversity of solutions available from cloud to mainframe and optimizing each layer to operate together will create the most effective, unified environment. Eighty-two percent of respondents are migrating at least some of their workloads and operations from mainframe to cloud, though only 4% are going completely cloud native. As hybrid environments proliferate, it’s clear that businesses can’t ignore the need for integration and optimization.

Mainframe modernization also offers benefits outside of IT

More than keeping systems running optimally, mainframe innovation will be crucial in overcoming business’s other pressing challenges like closing the skills gap. Businesses that use mainframe technology are experiencing a generational gap; as seasoned employees retire with their mainframe knowledge, new hires hesitate to fill their roles under the misperception that mainframe technology is outdated. Modernizing the mainframe is therefore an imperative to maintain a pipeline of new talent.

Many companies are already modernizing systems to close skills gaps in their talent pools. In fact, modernizing systems is the most popular way respondents are working to maintain talent pipelines with 45% of respondents citing it as the top method. Forty three percent of respondents plan to offer mainframe-specific education to help address the skills gap. As organizations step into the future with their mainframes, modernization has the potential to protect not only their IT infrastructures, but the integrity of their workforces.

For more details on the findings, download the Rocket Software 2022 Survey Report: The State of the Mainframe here.