IBM's hyperbolic announcement yesterday of its new zEnterprise mainframe (Big Blue said the new system provides 60% more performance and capacity in the same power envelope than the previous generation of IBM mainframes, z10, and is 56% less expensive to run than a comparable farm of Intel servers) interested us because in the past few weeks, we've spoken to several CIOs about their reliance on mainframes.Highland Banks in Maple Grove, Minn. ($560 million in assets), has been maintaining three mainframes to support its primary operations and backup site, and the cost and work of this is driving the bank to an outsourcing arrangement with Fiserv. "With the changing environment, it's quite expensive to keep that upgraded," notes CTO Craig Boivin. "The skill set you need to maintain a mainframe environment is not super prevalent in the marketplace. Recent college graduates know web development, Unix or Linux based systems, whatever's the latest and greatest in technology, because there's a lot of money and influx in that, but the older technology used to run processes is still around. The population to support that is your seasoned IT individuals, and those folks are becoming fewer and harder to find."
Wells Fargo, despite being a leader in server virtualization, still makes heavy use of mainframes. Navy Federal Credit Union, which is primarily an IBM shop using mainframes and P series servers, is working with local colleges to develop a curriculum around mainframe administration because the credit union doesn't plan to move away from the mainframe any time soon. IBM has also been working with several universities to create programs that certify graduates in mainframe management. (When I Twittered about this yesterday during IBM's zEnterprise announcement, I got a few "Really?" replies. But there are definitely jobs out there at banks for those who know their way around a mainframe.)
Citi has already begun using the new IBM zEnterprise mainframe as its "core processing engine of virtually every line of business," according to yesterday's press release.
"The new IBM zEnterprise System represents a potentially revolutionary change to the platform and the next phase in the evolution of highly efficient, scalable processing opening up the possibility of hosting entire workloads on a single highly integrated system," said Martin Kennedy, managing director, Citi's enterprise system infrastructure, in a statement. "The new zEnterprise also paves the way to enhance the energy dynamics of our data centers. As one of America's greenest banks we plan to take full advantage of the additional capacity and advanced power and cooling capabilities unique to zEnterprise. Citi's unified technology decision making model and its recent efforts to gain efficiencies prepared us to invest in these innovative technologies that benefit our clients."
Who would have thought a mainframe would ever be touted as an innovative, green technology?