By David Rizzo, VP of Development, Compuware,

Last month, IBM introduced the latest member of their mainframe family, the z14 – a true technological breakthrough. Some of the most notable enhancements include:

Security: The z14’s pervasive encryption allows data associated with an entire application (spanning the mainframe and beyond) to be encrypted in flight or at rest, with one click. By enabling “bulk” encryption (as opposed to encrypting small chunks of data at a time), the z14 can protect data 18 times faster than x86 alternatives at just five percent of the cost.

Reliability: IBM z systems are considered the most reliable platform on earth (“z” actually stands for “zero downtime”). The z14 delivers faster I/O and accelerated transaction processing compared to the z13, powering significantly higher transaction volumes without the worry of a crash.

Performance: The z14 is capable of running Java workloads 50 percent faster than x86 alternatives. It offers three times the memory of the z13 to accelerate analytics performance, and cuts application response times in half. According to IBM, mainframes currently handle an estimated 68 percent of the world’s production loads, at only six percent of total IT cost.

The z14 is also well-poised to be the platform of the future. Pervasive technology is the key to powering the API economy, or the “glue” that holds together connected business processes from the mainframe, to the cloud and beyond.

If the mainframe is such a competitive asset – and so much work is going into improving it – why are some mainframe users considering moving off the platform? The answer is that many of today’s CIOs have had very little opportunity to gain an understanding of the platform as they forged their careers through a period of intensive technological change and innovation. With little to no experience with the mainframe, it is often inaccurately viewed as a relic of a bygone era.  However, nothing could be further from the truth, as mainframes continue to process an estimated 87 percent of all credit card transactions (nearly $8 trillion in payments), 29 billion ATM transactions (worth nearly $5 billion per day), and four billion passenger flights per year.

There are many exciting initiatives underway that aren’t always well publicized. For example:

  • Installation Improvements: The new z/OS version 2.3, continues to lay the foundation for installation improvements through enhancements supporting a basis for a common installer. Leading mainframe vendors are collaborating with IBM to standardize software product installation on the mainframe.
  • Security: Building upon the already robust record of the mainframe and z/OS, vendors are offering complementary solutions to further augment the benefits of pervasive encryption. The IBM z/OS 2.3 provides encryption-readiness technology enabling z/OS administrators to determine which traffic patterns to and from their z/OS systems meet approved encryption criteria. These new features can be combined with solutions providing end-to-end visibility into privileged user behavior, delivering the most comprehensive level of protection against insider threats.
  • Modernizing the Development Environment: z/OS 2.3 offers triple the amount of development capacity compared to earlier z/OS versions (helpful for supporting the latest DevOps tooling and processes), This represents a huge opportunity for development teams, in terms of their ability to work on mainframe-dependent applications as well as integrating the mainframe into wider DevOps processes and toolchains.

However, the mainframe has traditionally existing in a silo, rendering it unfamiliar and arcane to newer developers. In order to take full advantage of development enhancements, “demarcation lines” around the mainframe must be eradicated. Modern tools can give the mainframe development environment a newer, more up-to-date look and feel, making it more familiar and comfortable to newer developers. Ultimately, developers are empowered to work on the mainframe as nimbly and deftly as other platforms, while fully including the mainframe in enterprise-wide DevOps processes.

  • Centers of Excellence: Leading IT services companies realize that mainframes are irreplaceable and invaluable systems of record, and most clients would be better served staying on the mainframe rather than moving off to less capable systems. Last month, Wipro launched a “Mainframe Center of Excellence” (CoE), featuring new solutions that are allowing Wipro employees to formulate best practices for achieving mainframe agility and cross-platform DevOps integration. Additionally, Wipro clients can gain first-hand experience in using these solutions and discover better ways to leverage mainframe applications and data. Wipro’s Center of Excellence is a prime example of vehicles available to help organizations transition mainframe stewardship to newer developer ranks.


Digital transformation is driving higher data transaction volumes and accelerating the rate of application changes made by enterprises. This also demands a higher level of data security than ever before, as code is worked on more frequently.  As mainframe users adapt to this reality, it is important to remember new does not always equate to better. IBM’s latest engineering marvel has the benefit of being supported by a highly collaborative, innovative ecosystem, committed to helping mainframe users take full advantage through a comprehensive hardware, operating system and software stack. By leveraging these vast opportunities these users will have a distinct competitive advantage.


About the Author

David Rizzo is the Vice President of Product Development for Compuware. He has more than 20 years of IT experience with roles in development, architecture and strategic planning.