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The Futurum Group | Mainframe Trends in 2024: Navigating Innovation

Steven Dickens of The Futurum Group makes 2024 mainframe predictions and spotlights key industry players.

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The Futurum Group insights blog

(Editor's note: The following article was originally published on The Futurum Group insights blog on January 10, 2024.)


A few days ago, I wrote about the trends that shaped 2023 in the mainframe space. This note highlights what trends I expect to shape the mainframe space in 2024. At the start of 2024, the mainframe technology space is undergoing pivotal transformations. This year is particularly significant as the mainframe turns 60 on April 7, marking a milestone in its enduring legacy and a moment to pivot toward future innovations rather than mere reflection. The landscape is set to be shaped by key developments involving major players such as Rocket Software, Broadcom, BMC, and IBM, with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, and Google still promoting alternative solutions on their cloud platforms.

The Role of the Mainframe in the Future of Technology

As we look to the future, it is clear that mainframes will continue to play a crucial role in the technology ecosystem. Their unparalleled processing power, reliability, and security make them indispensable for high-transaction-volume, mission-critical applications across various industries and governments. The challenge lies in ensuring that mainframes can seamlessly integrate with new technologies, such as cloud computing and AI, to remain relevant and efficient in a hybrid IT environment.

The efforts of companies such as Rocket Software, Broadcom, BMC, and IBM are instrumental in this regard. By focusing on modernization, connectivity, AI integration, and cloud solutions, these industry leaders ensure that mainframes can meet the evolving needs of businesses while maintaining their core strengths. This balance of innovation and reliability is critical to the mainframe’s enduring relevance.

Celebrating Mainframe’s 60th Year: A Vision for the Future

As 2024 marks the 60th anniversary of the mainframe, it is imperative to acknowledge this significant milestone in any forward-looking discussion about mainframe technology. This year’s commemoration is not only a nod to the historical importance of the mainframe but also a testament to its remarkable adaptability and ongoing relevance in the IT sector. The six-decade journey of the mainframe has been synonymous with the broader evolution of technology, highlighting its ability to adapt, evolve, and surmount challenges. As I reflect on this impressive legacy, the 60th anniversary catalyzes future innovations, underlining the untapped potential of these robust systems in our increasingly digitalized world.

The 60th Anniversary of the Mainframe: Paving the Way for Future Tech

April 7 marks a significant chapter in mainframe history—its 60th anniversary. This occasion is far more than a historical commemoration; it symbolizes a pivotal moment for the industry to project forward. It is a reflection of the mainframe’s resilience and its ability to adapt through decades of technological change and evolving business needs. As we celebrate this milestone, the emphasis should be on the future, imagining the evolving role of mainframes in spearheading the next phase of digital transformation.

Rocket Software and the AMC Acquisition: A Strategic Expansion

A critical trend to watch is the impact of Rocket Software’s recent acquisition of the Application Modernization and Connectivity (AMC) business from OpenText. This move signifies a strategic expansion in Rocket Software’s portfolio, aimed at bolstering its capabilities in legacy system modernization and connectivity solutions. The integration of AMC’s expertise and customer base is expected to enhance Rocket’s position in the market, offering more comprehensive solutions to enterprises seeking to modernize their mainframe infrastructure without disrupting their core operations.

Broadcom: Bridging Skills and Leveraging VMware for Connectivity

Another key trend is Broadcom’s initiative to drive skills in the mainframe sector. In an era where the technology talent gap is more pronounced, Broadcom’s efforts to cultivate new talent and upskill existing professionals are crucial. This initiative not only addresses the immediate need for mainframe expertise but also ensures the sustainability of mainframe technology in the long term.

Furthermore, Broadcom’s acquisition of VMware is set to have a profound impact. By leveraging the VMware portfolio, Broadcom aims to enhance connectivity and facilitate a more seamless hybrid cloud experience. This integration promises to unlock new capabilities in mainframe-to-cloud connectivity, enabling businesses to more effectively manage their workloads across diverse environments while capitalizing on the robustness and reliability of mainframe systems.

BMC’s Focuses on AI Ops and AMI Cloud Storage

BMC, a longstanding stalwart in the mainframe space, is making significant strides in AI operations (AI Ops) and cloud storage. The company’s focus on AI Ops is particularly timely, given the increasing complexity of IT environments. BMC aims to deliver more proactive and predictive management solutions by integrating AI and machine learning (ML) into mainframe operations. This approach can significantly reduce downtime and optimize performance, which is critical for enterprises relying on mainframes for their mission-critical applications.

In addition, BMC’s advancements in the Automated Mainframe Intelligence (AMI) cloud storage portfolio are poised to redefine how mainframe data is stored and accessed. The Model9 acquisition will be in the rearview mirror, and I expect BMC to power forward now that the Model9 portfolio is fully integrated. This innovation is likely to enhance data agility and security, thus supporting the evolving storage needs of modern enterprises.

IBM’s Strategy with LinuxONE and the Anticipation of z17

On the horizon, IBM’s z17 looms large, albeit its release is most likely slated for 2025 rather than this year. The anticipation surrounding the z17 is palpable, as it promises to bring next-generation capabilities to the mainframe domain, and I expect AI to figure large in any announcement. However, this delayed timeline places a strategic imperative on IBM to maintain momentum in the interim.

A key area where IBM could focus its efforts is driving the adoption of LinuxONE. This platform offers a unique value proposition, blending the robustness of the Telum processor with the flexibility and open nature of Linux. By emphasizing LinuxONE, IBM could tap into the growing demand for open source solutions in enterprise environments, ensuring continued relevance and growth in the mainframe market.

By adopting a Stanley Quencher-style marketing approach, IBM could significantly broaden its LinuxONE systems’ appeal beyond the conventional mainframe customer base. This marketing strategy, known for its focus on different users than the traditional client base and community engagement, could be adopted for LinuxONE, and make LinuxONE more relatable and desirable to a new generation of tech-savvy businesses and startups. By showcasing LinuxONE as not just a product but a part of a modern, dynamic tech ecosystem, IBM could penetrate new markets that value both the technical superiority and the lifestyle association that such a marketing approach embodies, thereby driving sales and expanding its market footprint. Heck, LinuxONE even has the new colors down with the orange doors.

Alternatives Abound

The mainframe technology community is witnessing a significant shift toward modernization, especially with the involvement of leading cloud service providers such as AWS, Microsoft, and Google. These tech giants increasingly focus on facilitating mainframe-to-cloud migration, recognizing the complex challenges of replatforming and refactoring legacy systems. AWS’s M2 service, in particular, has gained notable traction in this arena, offering specialized capabilities for mainframe migration.

This trend is further supported by companies such as AveriSource, Astadia, and Heirloom Computing, which are making strides in easing the transition process. The collaboration between these cloud service providers and specialized migration firms is paving the way for a smoother and more efficient transition from traditional mainframe systems to modern cloud-based solutions, promising a transformative impact on the mainframe technology landscape.

Concluding Thoughts: Navigating a Dynamic Landscape

In conclusion, 2024 is a defining year in the mainframe technology space. The developments from Rocket Software, Broadcom, BMC, IBM, and many others highlight a dynamic and evolving landscape. The strategic emphasis on modernization, skills development, hybrid cloud connectivity, AI Ops, and cloud storage reflects a broader trend toward making mainframe technology more adaptable, resilient, and aligned with contemporary enterprise needs. As the mainframe turns 60, it is not just an occasion to celebrate its past but to eagerly anticipate its future role in shaping tomorrow’s digital infrastructure. The challenge for these industry leaders is to navigate this landscape, leveraging their strengths while innovatively addressing emerging demands, ensuring that mainframes remain an indispensable part of the technological fabric in a rapidly evolving digital world.

The ongoing advancements in mainframe technology underscore a broader narrative of transformation and resilience. Mainframes have survived and thrived by continually adapting to new technological paradigms—from the rise of the internet and e-commerce to the current focus on cloud integration and AI-driven operations. The key players in this space, through their strategic initiatives and innovative approaches, are setting the stage for the next chapter in the mainframe story.

Steven Dickens, VP & Practice Lead (Hybrid Cloud, Infrastructure, & Operations), The Futurum Group

Disclosure: The Futurum Group is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of The Futurum Group as a whole.