CA To Overhaul Big Iron With Mainframe 2.0

The management company claims mainframes can represent only half the cost of distributed client-server architecture for light workloads.
It might sound like an oxymoron, but CA is going with it anyway. The management company unveiled a new Big Iron strategy this week that it calls Mainframe 2.0, a push to simplify mainframe software.

Software for the mainframe still represents about half of CA's total revenue, but CA recognized that there was substantial reason for an overhaul. Through many acquisitions over the years, CA counts a dizzying array of almost 390 mainframe products in its portfolio. Many have varying user interfaces and redundant functionality, and some haven't been upgraded for years to work with the latest mainframe technology. Meanwhile, many mainframe workers are on the verge of retiring, often never to be replaced.

And yet, according to CA, the top 2,000 historic mainframe customers are investing more in mainframes than they have in recent years, especially with the advent of IBM's newer cheap mainframe processors. CA claims mainframes can represent only half the cost of distributed client-server architecture for light workloads.

"There's no CEO or CFO who's interested in adding one more square foot of floor space," Chris O'Malley, executive VP of CA's mainframe business unit, said in an interview. "If you're running servers at 15% utilization, you're effectively burning money in the parking lot."

The onset of server virtualization may have actually helped mainframe investment, O'Malley said, as has the increase in use of Linux on IBM zSeries mainframes, also known as zLinux.

"The mainframe has perfected virtualization over the last 30 years, and you're seeing customers move to it for consolidation and virtualization now," he said. "We're also starting to see more customers at the entry level that are actually buying them not to run zOS, but to run VMs and zLinux on it."

While CA claims mainframe workloads have quadrupled since 2000, an aging workforce of mainframe operators is on the verge of retirement. CA has found that many of the mainframe workers in Fortune 2000 companies are now or will soon be eligible for retirement, and once they're gone, often no one that comes in to take their place. And so, making it easier to manage mainframes is task No. 1.

Simplification will come through several steps. First, CA will introduce a consistent installation stack to make it easy to get software up and running. The company will also move to a more predictable release cycle, starting with a new round of releases in May, that will also help CA do better integration testing. New products will be more automated, with more set pre-configurations. It will also enlist partners to help with installation and care and feeding of mainframes.

User interfaces will also see makeovers. CA aims to "dramatically simplify" them, and in some cases redesign the user interfaces to fit specific worker roles. Later, CA will deliver a more consistent user interface across its product line.

CA's initiative follows similar ones announced in recent years by IBM and BMC Software.

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