GM of CA Technologies: 3 mainframes replaced 100's of Linux blades

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The mainframe is far from dead, declares Michael Madden, a general manager at CA Technologies. CA provides IT management solutions that help customers manage and secure complex IT environments to support agile business services, and Madden is the GM of the company's mainframe business unit.

The mainframe continues to deliver value in various industries and has even replaced traditional server systems on occasion, says Madden. He draws parallels to how the mainframe's traditional attribute can serve to create an exceptional platform for cloud services. Check out the rest that Madden has to share in our latest one-on-one.

FCIO: Didn't the mainframe die years ago?

MM: No. Far from it. Industries such as finance, healthcare and others use the mainframe for its most critical transactions. For example, do you use an ATM?  The mainframe is behind that transaction. The reality is that System z (the mainframe) is being viewed as an agent of change, an increasingly complex and agile technology world for a variety of reason--including scalability, security and reliability.

A study we commissioned last year showed that:

  • 80 percent of IT decision-makers globally confirm the mainframe as a highly strategic part of their IT plans.
  • 58 percent of organizations view the mainframe as critical to their cloud strategy.
  • 44 percent of organizations are currently or have plans to enable mobile management of the mainframe.

FCIO: Can you share with us some anecdotes on how the mainframe is still being used today?

MM: System z is an advanced platform and has been recognized by CDN as one this year's list of top servers. Customers are taking advantage of facilities such as Linux and Java to consolidate workloads back to the platform, implement new applications and modernize existing applications all with tremendous operational savings. One of our customers consolidated hundreds of Linux blades to three mainframes running Linux saving millions of dollars in annual operating costs.

FCIO: In what ways have the rise of cloud computing impacted the mainframe?

​MM: Cloud computing is a promise of services being available like a utility delivering what you want when you want it. The traditional attributes of the mainframe, reliability, security and performance coupled with low acquisition cost of newer mainframes, analytics facilities and Java performance create an exceptional platform for cloud services.

FCIO: Can you tell us more about the dynamic datacenter and how it relates to the modern IT departments?

​MM: Consumerization (BYOD, mobile apps, etc.), shadow IT (random cloud adoption, for example) and other disruptions to the data center have put dynamic pull on data center resources and can cause unexpected spikes in capacity needs, invite security risks, and introduce dynamically shifting demands for resource. 

Let me give you an example. I was talking to a company that ran its mainframe in the classic model, carefully planning for capacity growth year to year. All of a sudden, though, data demand went through the roof, blowing all of the careful projections. What happened? A business unit commissioned a mobile app for iOS and Android devices—a mobile app that reached back to the mainframe for its data. When the app was a runaway success, so was the data consumption.

FCIO: When is the use of distributed solutions not better?

​MM: Certain CPU specific workloads that require straightline processing may run more cost effectively than system z. The opportunity is for CIOs to understand the full capability, flexibility and capability afforded by the current generation of mainframes. This has led some of our customers to consolidate and simplify infrastructure management by moving workloads to system z.

FCIO: Do you have any other comments to add?

​MM: The opportunity for system z will likely expand as organizations invest in big data, expand cloud portfolios and continue to scrutinize operational costs. The capability and operating characteristics of the platform should result in strong consideration for adoption by MSPs and mid-market companies.

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