Tuesday, 24 May 2016 20:53

How much is Java affecting your mainframe?


The digital economy is breathing new life into the mainframe. Whether it’s buying an airline ticket, shipping an item from overseas, or making a mobile transaction, you may not know it, but mainframes are most likely powering those most popular applications.

In fact, 80% of the world’s corporate data still resides on mainframes, and 91% of all new client and customer-facing applications access a mainframe. Mainframes still provides "mission critical" processing with unparalleled security and processing power. Even IBM recently declared that the company’s strongest growth sector was — you guessed it — the mainframe business.

Whether it’s the tight security, availability or superior data server and transactional throughput, there are several major factors driving the mainframe’s continued growth.

James Russell, sales and change leader, APAC at BMC Software, has penned an article on Java and the mainframe. iTWire has an article on BMC’s annual 2015 mainframe report here.

According to a recent survey from BMC software, 56% of respondents deemed security as the most important contributor to mainframe growth, with 55% also citing high availability an important consideration.

A total of 48% said they would continue to invest in mainframe due to their centralised data server capability, while 45% said mainframes best suit their transaction throughput requirements.

It certainly looks like mainframes are not going anywhere soon. That’s good news.

But the bad news is the declining availability of talent to actually work on mainframes. After all, it’s growing increasingly difficult to find P/L1, COBOL or assembler programmers.

So, if mainframes are going to continue attracting new applications, particularly mobile apps, will IT departments be able to find the talent to deploy them quickly and securely?

Today we’re seeing two types of enterprise mainframe customers:

  • The legacy users who leave the mainframe as a data server and have their front-end applications access mainframe data; and
  • Those with new applications built on the mainframe, which access all data on the mainframe platform.

Both of these environments require a team that is well-versed in the infrastructure and able to successfully navigate it. Whether it’s modernising existing applications or rolling out new ones, the speed in which they’re able to do so is also critical.

So, if you cannot find old school programmers, what do you do? The answer is Java programmers, who are far more plentiful. Consequently, we are seeing a lot more Java on the mainframe being used to meet the growing demands of digital business. And when it comes to agile development, Java is definitely top of the list. 

Java workloads affect performance and availability on the mainframe because they consume system resources without regard for the needs of other services. Left unmonitored, Java can negatively impact performance of other applications and workloads.

To put it simply, Java programs aren’t very nice neighbours. Java programs run in their own virtual machine, which consumes overhead in CICS and IMS regions. Java also routinely performs garbage collection, which can cause unexpected slowdowns.

Not so good in a business environment, or any environment for that matter.

All of this can put significant pressure on the mainframe technology stack.

To address it, an integrated management approach allows ITOps to have a holistic view of the environment, to quickly and easily discover Java Virtual Machines and to manage the effect of their resource consumption on application performance.

What IT departments need is a consolidated view of Java runtime environments and insights into all resources being consumed. From there, IT can identify and manage performance issues, well before they actually begin to impact end-users. And this isn’t nirvana, it’s well and truly possible, and necessary.

There’s clear evidence that mainframes are not going away anytime soon, nor is the need for agile development in business. If Java is today’s preferred programming language, then it’s fundamental that Java and the mainframe work together so the end-user experience is never interrupted.


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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!



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