Although friends and family appreciate my enthusiasm for technology, there's nothing like trading ideas with others who share your passion. I recently attended the SHARE conference in Orlando and was, as always, happy to reconnect with the mainframe and enterprise community. I also came away excited by how the event reflects the present moment in mainframes. Here are a few of my major takeaways.
The Big Iron cloud?
In a lot of ways throughout the conference, it was clear that the integration of mainframes into cloud architecture (and vice versa) has reached a new level of acceptance. Not so long ago, if I had said that cloud-based applications could access data from an on-premise mainframe (or that on-premise mainframes could access data stored in the cloud), I would have been met by raised eyebrows. In Orlando, attendees were at least receptive to the notion, and often were enthusiastic about mainframe/cloud compatibility.
The potential of this attitude shift is huge for the mainframe sector. Broadly, it further demonstrates how the tech industry at large is recognizing the continued relevance of mainframes, hopefully driving a Big Iron renaissance. Specifically, confidence in mainframe/cloud interoperability demonstrates the versatility of mainframes to operate in other environments, such as mobile. And, judging from the topics of many SHARE presentations, the next step for mainframe momentum is to take this confidence and convert it to evangelism. So spread the word!
USS has its moment
When IBM added Unix System Services (USS) to z/OS in 2001, the fact that z/OS was now a certified UNIX operating system didn't receive a ton of attention. In Orlando, it was clear that people are finally taking notice of what USS can offer. Our team of Rocketeers in attendance witnessed unprecedented interest in this humble z/OS component, coupled with requests for the porting of more open source tools – on top of those which we're actively working on. It's fun to be a part of this popular effort by porting over 27 open source tools like Bash, Make, and cURL, and popular programming languages like Python, Perl, PHP.
Attendance at sessions on Java was notably high, and audience feedback seemed to indicate real-world experience with managing enterprise production Java applications. I found this encouraging for several reasons:
- Java runs incredibly well on z/OS, but this fact hasn't received the notice it deserves.
- Java is the programming language of choice for many younger engineers, and the ability to use what they already know in an optimal environment may be an incentive to attract younger talent to the benefits that mainframes offer.
- At SHARE Orlando I spoke on the critical need for companies to update their infrastructure in order to handle the rigors of the digital environment, and mainframes are a great part of that effort. Such a complex undertaking requires a variety of resources, and Java is a fantastic resource for the modernization of critical systems.
A Linux Opportunity
A few Linux-related factors converged right around SHARE Orlando that could offer a big boost to the mainframe market. While Linux on z Systems has always combined the benefits of mainframes with the strengths of Linux, pricing structures have been an obstacle to adoption. IBM has simplified pricing for Linux on System z, but this is not the only news. The announcement of the LinuxONE, a mainframe that runs exclusively on the open source OS, offers additional options that may attract interest from new audience segments. Add in announced support for Ubuntu, as well as other popular Linux open-source tools, and the mainframe looks even more compelling.
I can't predict the events that will dominate SHARE San Antonio or Atlanta in 2016, but based on the trends from this year, I'm feeling optimistic about the state of mainframes. If the momentum around Big Iron continues to grow from what I saw in Orlando, 2016 could be quite a big year for mainframes.
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