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Retail still reliant on mainframes

By Retail Technology | Tuesday December 31 2013

Global survey uncovers mobile's big impact, prompting CIOs in industries reliant on the mainframe to re-examine performance management strategies

Results of a global survey of chief information officers (CIOs) reveal mobile technology is increasing complexity, usage and costs of mainframe applications. 

This trend is of particular importance in retail, given growing mobile device adoption, where the survey also found over half (55%) of enterprise applications in the retail, distribution and transport sectors call upon the mainframe to complete transactions.

As a result, companies in every industry are finding it more difficult to isolate and fix problems. Nearly 90% of the CIOs polled said they were using outdated transaction monitoring practices that did not provide visibility into how distributed and mainframe applications interact. 

In addition, IT staff are spending needless time in ‘war rooms’ trying to resolve complex application issues they cannot see, increasing the likelihood that if problems persist, brand reputations – and bottom lines – suffer.

New workloads, new challenges 

The survey of 350 CIOs at large companies in Australia, Benelux, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US and UK, commissioned by technology performance company Compuware and conducted by independent research company Vanson Bourne, researched the impact of new technologies and trends on the mainframe application environment.

“The survey results paint a picture of what IT departments have to cope with on a day-to-day basis,” said Kris Manery, senior vice president and general manager of Compuware’s mainframe business unit. 

“The findings showed that more than half of customer-facing and business-critical applications are dependent on the mainframe. At the same time, 68% of CIOs felt distributed application developers are unaware of the impact they have on the mainframe environment. That is cause for concern, as a poorly optimised application interacting with the mainframe will drive up MIPS [million instructions per second] costs unnecessarily. Those costs could be drastically reduced if developers had visibility into how their code was impacting the mainframe.”

A new hyper-distributed world

Breaking out the survey results by industry revealed that 81% of CIOs in the retail, distribution and transport industries stated mainframe workloads were increasing and getting more varied, while 88% said high customer expectations were increasing the pressure on the mainframe to perform.

Nearly all (90%) of the retail, distribution and transport CIOs questioned believed complexity is creating new risks in relations to application performance, while over half (59%)said mobility has increased MIPS consumption by over a quarter. 

Two thirds (66%) of retail, distribution and transport companies were regularly unaware of application problems until calls start coming back into the helpdesk and 76% were fire-fighting problems in war room scenarios on a monthly basis.

“New problems require new solutions,” said Manery. “The interconnected nature of the enterprise application environment needs to be managed in an integrated way. If IT is constantly tied up trying to solve problems, it has a ripple effect across the business, delaying projects and holding back innovation. Over time this makes it harder for businesses to compete and companies lose their competitive edge. 

“Yet by moving from a reactive to a proactive approach to identifying and rectifying performance issues before they turn into problems for end-users, companies can deliver time and resources back to the business to invest in more revenue-generating activities.”

Another recent Compuware CIO survey also found a high level of dissatisfaction with quality of output from mainframe outsourcers.

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