Mainframes are far from dead, but many businesses periodically revisit their mainframe usage to determine if shifting to a more modern platform makes sense. A recent Gartner report suggests that any site using under 1000 MIPS (million instructions per second) of capacity is a prime candidate for migrating to a Windows or Linux server environment instead.
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Dale analyst Dale Vecchio makes the point fairly directly:
The acceptance of lower-cost commodity hardware for mission-critical workloads will cause IBM mainframe customers to struggle to justify the value proposition of this flagship IBM platform in the sub-1,000 MIPS market segment.
One big reason for the shift? The last of the mainframe-trained baby boomers are nearing retirement, and modern computing science courses rarely emphasise mainframe technologies. That can mean that even when a platform is working well, a migration strategy is required to ensure it can be maintained long-term.