Spare parts are not your most pressing mainframe issue

man logging into mainframe system

Posted on Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The resurgence of the mainframe, particularly the IBM z-Series, may have caught some analysts by surprise, but it also raises significant questions.

The truth is that despite an increase in annual sales, most businesses using mainframes are not replacing them; they use the same ageing hardware for many years – perhaps even decades.

As the equipment ages, many CTOs begin to consider the business risks posed by operating line-of-business applications on these systems. For many, the issue of parts availability is a huge concern; if they cannot source spares, business could grind to a halt – potentially indefinitely.

A far larger problem is lurking in the shadows

The reality is that parts will almost always be available; if not from the OEM direct, then from a third party’s store of OEM-approved spares. If the unthinkable happened, it may even be possible to acquire a reconditioned spare as a stopgap measure until a permanent solution can be implemented.

In far shorter supply however are mainframe skills. The decline in mainframe ownership means that the numbers of IT professionals holding those skills are dwindling. And because mainframe computing is seen as being less “sexy” or more “niche” than other IT roles, fewer engineers are entering the field.

Because experienced mainframe engineers are in short supply, they can command large salaries, dramatically increasing the TCO of these systems. Once CTOs begin to consider this particular issue, they may also begin drawing up plans for migrating away from their mainframe infrastructure.

Another potential solution – partnership

There is another option however – third party support and maintenance. Partnering with an independent support provider like CDS gives mainframe-using businesses access to all the skills and expertise they need to keep systems up-and-running – including those for which OEMs have withdrawn official support.

More importantly still, outsourcing key mainframe responsibilities is typically far less expensive than hiring a dedicated engineer, helping to reduce running costs. It may be that keeping an older mainframe in place for longer is actually a sensible strategic move; not only does the TCO come down, but the savings can be reinvested in other projects. And your business can avoid the disruption traditionally associated with a major move away from the mainframe.

To learn more about mainframe support and how CDS can help your business avoid the skills gap cost effectively, please get in touch.