Mainframes play a pivotal role in hosting mission-critical applications for global giants across various industries: IBM

Mainframes play a pivotal role in hosting mission-critical applications for global giants across various industries: IBM

Pradeep Chakraborty
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IBM Mainframe

IBM Mainframe

On April 7, 2024, the mainframe celebrates its 60th anniversary since the introduction of the System/360 in 1964, which later evolved into generations of IBM Z.


Subhathra Srinivasaraghavan, VP, India Systems Development Lab (ISDL), IBM, tells us more about the trends to watch ahead. Excerpts from an interview:

DQ: What is the future of mainframes, and trends to watch out for?

Subhathra Srinivasaraghavan: On April 7, 2024, the mainframe celebrates its 60th anniversary since the introduction of the System/360 in 1964, which later evolved into generations of IBM Z. This system is a unique case in the tech industry, persisting for six decades while many other computer systems and IT companies from that era have vanished.


Amidst the ongoing technological transformation, the mainframe stands out as a resilient force. Its enduring legacy is seen not only in the longevity of its production or spectrum of applications that it runs, but also in its continued role as the backbone of the IT industry. Handling critical business applications and managing vast data volumes, the mainframe proves its indispensability in the face of evolving technologies.

Contrary to misconceptions about decline, recent research from IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) reveals that nearly 7 in 10 IT executives affirm mainframe-based applications are central to their business and technology strategies. On top of that, 68% of respondents assert that mainframe systems are central to their hybrid cloud strategy.

Today, mainframes play a pivotal role in hosting mission-critical applications for global giants across various industries, including customer order processing, financial transactions, production and inventory control, payroll, and more. This enduring usage underscores the mainframe's significance in powering essential business operations.


DQ: How are mainframes remaining indispensable in the current digital age?

Subhathra Srinivasaraghavan: In the current digital age, the mainframe, once considered a relic of the past, is undergoing a notable revival. Historically, mainframe applications were perceived as monolithic and rigid, making it challenging to integrate them with modern, agile systems.

To keep pace with the demands of the digital era, mainframe vendors are embracing modern development practices, such as DevOps and continuous delivery. Further, mainframe applications can be seamlessly integrated with web and mobile platforms, enabling businesses to deliver a cohesive user experience across diverse channels in a hybrid cloud environment.


In today's digital age, where cyber threats are prominent, security is more relevant than ever. A pronounced focus on security and compliance underscores the mainframe's position as a secure platform, incorporating robust access controls and audit trails, implementing quantum safe technology, thus ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of sensitive data in an increasingly interconnected world.

The mainframe's reputation for being a secure platform will further enhance its standing as a reliable option for organizations handling sensitive data, with increased adoption of AI. The mainframes provide a way to leverage AI at scale, with security and real time performance, which fits well in the enterprise needs.

DQ: How does a skilled workforce contribute to the maintenance and progression of mainframe technology?


Subhathra Srinivasaraghavan: The current demand for proficient mainframe professionals, on the back of rapid advancement of emerging technologies like AI, is a proof to the opportunity for industry expansion and advancement. While acknowledging the prevailing talent shortages, organizations are strategically addressing this issue amidst the dynamic landscape of evolving technologies and programming languages.

Hence, addressing the skills gap involves diverse strategies, including tailored training and apprenticeships. IBM, with initiatives like IBM SkillsBuild, invests in education to bridge skill gaps, collaborates with start-ups, universities, and conducts hackathons like IBM Z Datathon, to foster skill development.

Our commitment to technology and building a resilient workforce reflects in our innovation across end-to-end application developer lifecycle, application discovery and analysis, automated code refactoring.


DQ: What are the anticipated developments within the mainframe industry in 2024?

Subhathra Srinivasaraghavan: To understand the future of mainframes, it is crucial to review their evolution. Mainframes emerged in the 1960s, offering businesses a centralized computing platform to process transactions and handle data processing tasks efficiently.

Over time, they have undergone significant advancements, transitioning from massive physical machines to virtualized and cloud-based systems. The evolution of mainframes has been marked by improved performance, enhanced security measures, and the ability to integrate seamlessly with modern technologies.


In the forthcoming year and beyond, the mainframe industry is poised for transformative developments.

Hybrid approach

A hybrid best-fit approach is one that includes mainframes and cloud, supporting the modernization, integration, and deployment of applications. This maximizes business agility and addresses client pain points such as reducing the talent gap, accelerating time to market, improved access to mission-critical data across platforms and optimizing costs while catering to the unique demands of legacy applications that require the stability and processing power of mainframe environments.

Case in point, the IBM Z and Cloud Modernization Stack combines the power of IBM Z and the strength of Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform to deliver a modern, managed as-a-service model to complement your most resilient production workloads.

AI and ML integration

Mainframes will play a key role for adoption of AI in the enterprise use cases. This includes leveraging both the hardware capabilities and the software innovation. For instance, the IBM z16 series mainframe computers have the Telum processor that contains on-chip acceleration for AI inferencing in real time transactions.

There's also an AI Toolkit for IBM Z and LinuxONE, designed to help enable mission-critical business applications on open-source frameworks like IBM’s Z Accelerated line with TensorFlow, SnapML and more. IBM is leveraging Generative AI & large language models (LLMs) to help modernize applications including assisting with COBOL to Java migration.

Security and compliance focus

In 2024, the well-established reputation of mainframes as highly secure platforms further solidifies their status as a trusted choice for handling sensitive data, especially with the banking and financial institutions. This can be attributed to the need of the hour- combat today’s sophisticated cyber threats with a significant emphasis on advancements in mainframe security.

One such advancement from IBM is IBM's Secure Execution for Linux® embedded in the latest IBM z16 and IBM LinuxONE Emperor 4 generation systems. It provides protection against external attacks and insider threats, whether deployed on-premises or in hybrid cloud environments.

Open Source adoption

In 2024 and the years ahead, adoption of open source and technologies will continue, supporting the modernization of applications. IBM optimizes various popular open source software packages for both IBM Z and IBM LinuxONE. The introduction of the AI Toolkit for IBM Z and IBM LinuxONE furthers the support for key opensource AI frameworks on these platforms to foster increased adoption of AI technologies. Our steadfast commitment to open source development is evident in addressing the modernization needs of legacy customers as well, exemplified by the open sourcing of z/OS Connect for z/OS.

Enhanced energy efficiency and sustainability

Growing environmental concerns will drive a focus on energy efficiency in the mainframe industry. This involves developing more energy-efficient systems and using greener energy sources to reduce the overall carbon footprint, aligning with global sustainability goals.

IBM LinuxONE is one such example that provides a wealth of metrics like response time, throughput, and error rate, allowing organizations to assess the operational efficiency of their applications and ensure judicious resource consumption.

Mainframes, with their unmatched reliability, processing power, and security features, are set to coexist with modern technologies, enabling organizations to leverage the best of both worlds. As businesses recognize the value of mainframes in driving critical operations, their investments in these systems will continue to grow.