“I predict that the last mainframe will be unplugged on March 15, 1996.”
–Stewart Alsop, Editor-In-Chief, InfoWorld, 1991
As it turned out, Alsop never made it into the Nostradamus Hall of Fame, and, as you probably know, the “last mainframe” was most definitely not unplugged in 1996 as predicted…nor in 2006…nor in 2016…nor, very possibly, at any point in my lifetime or yours.
In making this ill-fated prognostication, Alsop failed to recognize two key truths of life, circa 1991:
For all the well-understood limitations of mainframe technology, there simply weren’t any viable alternatives that could match its power and speed—it was often the only game in town; and
Mainframe environments enjoyed tremendous advantages of incumbency; perhaps the greatest of these was the sheer complexity built into the system, both inherently and as the result of years/decades of on-going “fixes.” IT leaders were literally afraid to touch some of their most powerful machines, and it’s hard to unplug something that you won’t touch.
This situation has clearly changed over the past decade, but, alas, too late for Mr. Alsop.
There are now better technical solutions, including Apache Cassandra and DataStax Enterprise (DSE), for many of the massive processing jobs once dominated by mainframes. Similarly, the dynamics of risk have changed drastically, and now, in many cases, the “risk of change” is dwarfed by “the risks of the status quo”:
The risk of increasingly higher operating costs in support of systems increasingly less capable of meeting the data and analytics demands of today;
The risk of ever-declining talent pools of people able to manage and fix your mission-critical systems; and perhaps most unnerving of all,
The risk of younger, nimbler competitors—born without the anchor of legacy technology around their necks—providing YOUR customers with an experience that you simply cannot match.
Given that the “risk of change” and the “risk of the status quo” are both real and potentially existential, how should one proceed?
In the immortal words of Coach John Wooden: “Be quick but don’t hurry.”
Put another way: “Do it on your terms – but get started now.”
Doing it on your terms means that your organization gets to choose the size, scope, and pace of your architectural modernization, rather than having the marketplace and other externalities dictate those to you.
That said, doing it on your terms requires that you get started soon…as in NOW. Modernizing your technology stack is a long-term, highly-strategic initiative and the sooner you get started, the less vulnerable you are to those pesky risks of the status quo. Wait too long and you’re no longer master of your own destiny.
We at DataStax would love to work with you and help you map out a strategy for de-risking your mainframe environment, but for the next few weeks, we have an even better idea: come hear from folks who have made the journey themselves.
On May 21-23 we will be hosting DataStax Accelerate, the world’s premiere Apache Cassandra conference, just outside of Washington, D.C. Among a slew of great speakers, representing leading companies across the globe, are two that we think you might be particularly interested in:
Maciej Stepien, CEO at Braintri, will discuss how his firm helped an international bank move Core Banking Systems onto DSE, reducing the strain on those legacy systems while enhancing the customer experience across the digital channels.
Ramesh Ramakrishnan, Director of Systems Engineering at Verizon, will talk about how Verizon migrated key functions off the mainframe onto DSE, eliminated 90% of the associated costs and outperformed their competitors who were still on their legacy systems.
Of course, there will be many other transformational stories and networking opportunities at DataStax Accelerate.