Mainframe Upgrades

System upgrades are a fact of life. If you’re running a mainframe system, you’re doing it for a good reason—and that’s almost certainly because you need the performance, capacity, throughput and security. Not only that, you’re more than likely experiencing growing workloads—at least since 2008 (while some may only have experienced decelerated growth in 2008). Either way, it’s not “if” you’ll be facing a system upgrade at some point, it’s “when.” You will be doing it, the only question is when.

With mainframe systems, the good news is that a hardware upgrade is pretty straightforward: it’s not cheap, but it’s relatively painless. Software upgrades like Db2—they may happen at the same time, or not—they’re… well, okay, they’re pretty painful. But what database product as powerful as Db2 is an easy upgrade? The point is that you need to do them, and you know it.

After living with the upgrade lifestyle for many years, IT professionals soon learn there is a fairly regular upgrade cycle that a given mainframe shop can expect. Of course, an upgrade cycle period will depend on the type of business the organization runs, whether banking, insurance, financial services, healthcare, or retail, and it will also depend on how successful the business is, its rate of growth, as well as other factors. But a business can eventually determine that period fairly reliably—enough so it can plan its IT budget accordingly.

One of our banking customers had a mainframe upgrade cycle of three years. Every three years, the organization could pretty much bank on (sorry) a mainframe systems upgrade. Despite minor business fluctuations over the years, this turned out to be a very reliable number. Yearly budget planning took this cycle into account, and there were never any surprises; at least not since 2008. So every three years, the organization’s finance department would budget the necessary dollars for a mainframe systems upgrade. It became routine.

They weren’t complacent, they just didn’t think there was a way to change the cycle effectively. IBM helped out with sub-capacity pricing and regular Db2 updates that improved performance every time, among other things. The organization was used to the three-year upgrade cycle, and it wasn’t aware of other possibilities.

Cutting to the chase, we provided the customer with a systems optimization solution that enabled the organization to manage its mainframe system capacity in sync with its growing workloads. This immediately extended their mainframe system upgrade cycle from three years to four years. You can do the math: that’s one less upgrade over a 10-year period. That’s what optimization can do from a systems perspective. We’ll be going back to that organization this year to show it how to stretch that upgrade cycle from four years to five, or better. We’ll help them do that through optimization at the application and database levels.

Like death and taxes, mainframe systems upgrades are one of the sure things in life, at least for growing businesses. You aren’t going to see the end of them, but there are ways to see them a lot less often, and that’s going to have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Originally Published on LinkedIn Pulse

Regular Planet Mainframe Blog Contributor
Allan Zander is the CEO of DataKinetics – the global leader in Data Performance and Optimization. As a “Friend of the Mainframe”, Allan’s experience addressing both the technical and business needs of Global Fortune 500 customers has provided him with great insight into the industry’s opportunities and challenges – making him a sought-after writer and speaker on the topic of databases and mainframes.

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