In 2012, analysts at Gartner described the changing dynamics of digital business as being driven by what they call The Nexus of Forces. This important concept is crucial to understand and adapt to because it is impacting all of our businesses and the computing resources we use to conduct our business. And that, of course, means that the mainframe is being impacted.
But what is this Nexus of Forces?
Gartner defines it as the convergence and mutual reinforcement of mobile, social, cloud and information. These four trends are the major forces that are impacting computing circa 2016. And the impact is just as profound for mainframe computing as it is on other platforms. But before we examine how mainframe computing is being affected by the nexus of forces, first let’s define these four forces:
The first force, mobile computing, is transforming the way most people interact with applications. Just about everybody has a smart phone, a tablet, or both. And the devices are being used to keep people engaged throughout the day no matter where they are located. No longer do you have to get to your desktop PC or laptop in order use the web to find information or conduct business. This change is significant and fundamental.
Within a business context, it means that customers are engaging and interacting with your organization more frequently and from more diverse locations than ever before. Whether your organization is a bank, a retail outlet, or even in healthcare, your customers/patients are checking their balances, searching for deals, and monitoring their health consistently from mobile devices.
Social media is also quite impactful. Coupled with mobile devices, social media applications like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter enable consumers to communicate and interact with their peers about their experiences and preferences by sharing comments and recommendations with their social media connections. Consumers are more frequently relying upon the recommendations from their social connections than any other resource. And that makes the information shared via social media an important source to be monitored by your corporation – but it also makes it important for your corporation to engage and participate, as well.
The next force is cloud computing, which is the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local host. The cloud enables more types and sizes of organizations than ever before to be able to deploy and make use of computing resources – without having to own those resources.
The final force, information, is not particularly new, but it is being expanded as it works with the other three forces in the nexus of forces. Sure, we have been collecting and processing data and information since the earliest days of computing. But the amount and type of data that can be accessed and analyzed continues to grow by leaps and bounds. And when information is accessed using mobile, social, and cloud computing it becomes more accessible and useful by anyone, anywhere, at any time.
OK, So What About the Mainframe?
Say the word “mainframe” and many people immediately think of a colossal, ancient computer that is barely relevant any more. But this is far from the truth. IBM transaction processing technologies like CICS and IMS/TM regularly process more than a million transactions per second. Over 30 billion business transactions are performed on the mainframe every day. More than $6 trillion dollars in credit card payments are processed on the mainframe annually. These are the transactions that run the world.
But the mainframe environment is being impacted by the nexus of forces, too. As mobile, social, cloud and information applications work together to alter the methods of engagement with your business, those forces will touch the mainframe. Let’s consider an example.
How do you do business with your bank? The answer to that question will likely be different depending on your age. Digital transformation has significantly altered the way we bank regardless of our age, though. When was the last time you went inside of a bank and conducted a transaction with a teller? Unless you are a senior citizen (or had a special requirement for your transaction) you probably haven’t been inside a bank in years.
This is so because there are other methods of banking. Of course, there is the ATM, but that is an old technology now. More popular today is online banking conducted over a smart phone. You might even pay for goods and services using the smartphone instead of using cash or a credit card. And the younger generation may be using their smart phone app to check their balances multiple times throughout the day.
Now if the bank is a mainframe user (and most big banks are), those extra touches – check balance, pay using smart phone, etc. – all turn into additional transactions… Additional transactions that in the “old days” would not have run. So we need to be prepared for our mainframes to process more workload as the nexus of forces continues to impact how we engage with computerized systems.
What does that mean? As our mainframes process more workload IT technicians must be ever vigilant to ensure that mainframe capacity is available to support the work. This may require performance tuning and testing, as well as additional capacity planning tools to be adequately prepared.
It also means that your organization should be more cognizant of the MLC billing peaks as more workload can cause higher peaks perhaps shifted to different times of the day or month. Without the ability to view, track and manage your rolling four hour average the nexus of forces may cause your monthly software bill to increase.
The integrated impact and adoption of mobile, social, cloud and information technologies are transforming the way in which consumers interact with businesses. This, in turn, impacts the manner and timing of how computing resources are utilized. Even the mainframe… be prepared!
Regular Planet Mainframe Blog Contributor
Craig Mullins is President & Principal Consultant of Mullins Consulting, Inc., and the publisher/editor of The Database Site. Craig also writes for many popular IT and database journals and web sites, and is a frequent speaker on database issues at IT conferences. He has been named by IBM as a Gold Consultant and an Information Champion. He was recently named one of the Top 200 Thought Leaders in Big Data & Analytics by AnalyticsWeek magazine.