Mainframe vendors in Australia have exceeded their highest yearly revenues in just six months to more than $115 million defying doomsday predictions of the platforms demise.
The figure, based on analysis by research firm IDC, covers the period from October 2010 to March 2011 and is proof of the platforms unprecedented success in the Australian market. A similar pattern is also evident in New Zealand.
Prior to this result the last time the mainframe had record revenues was in 2007. Mainframe vendors recorded revenue totalling $110 million in that year. But that figure covered a 12 month period whereas this record breaking result is for a mere six months.
IDC senior analyst, Trevor Clarke, said that compared to the rest of the server market the $115 million figure may seem small but it doesn’t include software and associated services.
According to Clarke, the mainframe will continue to be a bastion for highly critical workloads.
"Given enterprise imperatives around security, scalability, and reliability the mainframe remains a highly relevant and viable option for large enterprise organisations in the A/NZ region," he said.
IDC recently released a report, The mainframe in Australia and New Zealand: Beyond Staying Relevant, which shows that while server virtualisation on x86 server platforms is a juggernaut growth area, the complex instruction set computer (CISC) server category is a key driver behind the turnaround.
IDC associate director, Matt Oostveen, said the mainframe is at an interesting juncture and its continued success will depend on greenfield customer sites installing the technology.
"These customers will likely come from the mid-market, and be spurred on by the capability to use the superior management and automation of the mainframe to run Windows and Linux environments more effectively than current virtualised x86 environments,” Oostveen said.
"It is unlikely the perceptions around the demise of the mainframe will disappear anytime soon.
“Indeed it is likely this view will continue to be peddled by many in the market, despite the recent success of the platform.”
Oostveen believes the task at hand for vendors and service providers already in the mainframe game is to change perceptions in the market.
He said it needs to reflect the reality that the mainframe will continue to be a cornerstone of enterprise computing and actually has a positive outlook.
IDC believes the immediate opportunity for the mainframe platform in A/NZ is around migrating additional workloads in existing clients to the most recent versions such as IBM's zEnterprise and Unisys' ClearPath range.
Some of these additional workloads will be database consolidation, data warehousing, and Web workloads.
Ongoing challenges for the mainframe include the availability of a skilled workforce and intense competition from agile server platform vendors.
Meta Group estimates that 55 per cent of IT workers with mainframe experience are more than 50 years old.
In a bid to overcome the skills drought, IBM has invested $US100 million in mainframe training in the last five years. IBM launched the initiative in Australia with local universities to combat the curriculum changes that occurred following the move to distributed midrange computing in the 1990s.
The emphasis shifted to teaching Windows and Unix skills, while mainframe skills were largely de-emphasised.