A new BMC survey of over 1500 global customers has shown that the mainframe is still popular and likely to stick around, although a lack of available skills might lead to Australian businesses importing foreign mainframe specialists.
Of the 71 Australian respondents, 94 per cent said that they believed the mainframe was a viable platform. None of the respondents said that they planned to stop using the platform in the near future.
"As a transaction engine, they just are the simplest example of how that system works," BMC's director of mainframe James Russell told ZDNet Australia. Mainframes were efficient, reliable, centralised and easy to manage, he said, a good exercise for total cost of ownership.
However, optimism about the mainframes' longevity comes despite 29 per cent of global respondents outlining their concerns about a lack of mainframe skills, as workers who have traditionally worked on the systems leave work to retire or even pass away.
"It's an increasing challenge," Russell said.
He said that either the industry needed to step up and train more people or the universities needed to produce students with the knowledge required to work with the systems.
Another option was importing the skills from overseas. India was turning out to be a great source for skills, according to Russell.
"They are actually training people up," he said, while pointing out that India didn't have the mainframe footprint to absorb those skills, meaning that the new specialists can be exported.
"We're going to import skills if we don't do our own training," he said.
It might actually prove to be an efficient way to handle the situation, he thought, given that the specific nature of the skills would mean that the number of important workers wouldn't run into thousands.
Another option is to use layers of technology over the mainframe so that non-skilled users can interface with the system, he said. BMC offers an example of such technology.
Russell admitted that encasing the mainframe into a higher-level user interface could bring IT workers further from understanding the mainframes, leading to a situation where the technology inside becomes like magic. That was why companies needed to make sure they retain some mainframe skills, he said.
"I hope we're never there, because I think that's a dangerous place to be," he said.