Mainframe Versus Cloud: Which Is Right for New Applications?

By: Fran Howarth - Leave a comment


For many years, the mainframe was the center of many organizations’ IT infrastructures, housed in the data center. Today, 96 percent of the world’s top 100 banks and 90 percent of the largest insurance organizations still rely on mainframes, according to Wired. Mainframes are able to handle large workloads, and their predictability, reliability, scalability and performance make them the system of choice for many organizations for bulk processing, handling transactions and for maintaining vital business records.

The Advantages of Mainframe Storage

Although many have sounded the death knell for mainframes, the technology can offer a number of advantages, including:

  • Flexible infrastructure that can support virtualized environments;
  • Scalable support for big data analytics and new applications;
  • Simple migration processes; and
  • Reduced total cost of ownership compared to a private cloud.

However, data centers are expensive to run and maintain. As a result, many organizations have been looking to consolidate their data center infrastructures in spite of the fact that mainframes are smaller than they once were and virtualization is now mainstream, allowing more to be done in a smaller amount of space.

Alternatives such as cloud computing have sprung up, allowing applications to be run via third-party infrastructure that requires little or no hardware investment and services to be paid for as they are needed. Third-party clouds also have the advantage of offering greater flexibility, allowing users to access services and data from whatever device they choose, whenever they wish.

Where Should You House New Applications?

Consider a situation where the CIO receives a request for running a new application. What makes more sense, storing this app in the data center or the cloud?

The two main considerations are the use of the application and the data that it will contain. Is it business-critical, required as a system of record? Will it need to process massive volumes of transactions simultaneously? In this case, the mainframe may be best suited since using virtualization will reduce the amount of space required to handle the program.

But if multiple users need to collaborate using the data contained in the application, if users will want to access the app from mobile devices or if there are likely to be large spikes in demand, housing the application in the cloud could be a better option.

Virtualization has spawned use of the cloud, but it has also given new life to the mainframe. There have been plenty of predictions about the death of the mainframe, but virtualization has also allowed it to maintain its relevance. It is still a viable alternative, especially for larger organizations with the resources to maintain one. But for smaller organizations, business units or highly collaborative applications, housing a new application in the cloud may be a better option.

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About The Author

Fran Howarth

Freelance Writer

Fran Howarth is an industry analyst and writer specializing in cybersecurity. She has worked within the security technology sector for more than 25 years in an advisory capacity as an analyst, consultant and writer. Fran focuses on the business needs for security technologies, with a focus on emerging technology sectors. Current areas of focus include... Read More