What, Exactly, is a 'Mainframe' These Days?
Insurance Experts' Forum, November 30, 2011
A couple of weeks back, IBM announced it was enabling Windows to be run within its mainframe system environments. The big box already has been running Linux for almost a decade now, and it also runs Unix. A couple of years back, Oracle and IBM announced an arrangement in which Oracle databases could be run on the mainframe box as well, supported by a Linux partition.
Which begs the questions: Where do you draw the line between distributed servers and mainframes? Is there even a line anymore?
This ought to be interesting news across the insurance industry, which still maintains many large mainframe installations, and will do so for a long time to come. Industry analysts and pundits often criticize the “legacy” base that still runs many insurance applications, but let's face it, the mainframe has evolved into a large, highly scalable environment that can handle the increasingly growing jobs coming our way. Big data analytics, high-transaction-level e-commerce, cloud support, intense mobile support—all functions that would bring many servers to their knees—are all relatively easy tasks for mainframe boxes.
And, as a result of IBM’s integration of Windows into the mainframe environment, Windows users now have access to mainframe-based security, scalability and storage resources.
The mainframe still has enormous costs to it, and as explained in an article by Bruce Hoard, such costs make the provisioning of new services expensive. This creates the need for creative strategies to adapt to new configurations, such as cloud. For example, CA Technologies reportedly cut some deals with insurance companies in which, “rather than charging them for millions of instructions per second, or MIPs, on the floor, it charges them for the number of new subscribers to their insurance policies, so if the number of subscribers goes up, CA is paid more, and if that number goes down, there's a renegotiation that reduces what CA is paid.”
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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