mainframes and motorcycles - a shared concept

Mainframes and Motorcycles

Editorial Staff Mainframe news


mainframes and motorcycles - a shared concept

Two great machines.  One common “why”.

A number of years ago I owned a Harley-Davidson® Fatboy®.  The motorcycle looked and ran great.  It suited me and did everything it needed it to do.  After owning it for a while, reading up on performance mods and relenting to some peer pressure, I decided to “upgrade” the motorcycle.

In theory it all seemed like a good idea.  That is where the good ended.  After changing one component I was forced to change another, then another, and another.  Before I knew it I had spent a lot of time and money.  The truth is that the upgrades were completely unnecessary and the cost benefit was certainly not there.

To make matters worse, the engine began knocking as I was pulling into the Annual Motocycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.  I gently rode it to our motel in Deadwood and promptly saw Sonny, a friend who happens to own a Harley-Davidson® dealership.  Sonny was gracious enough to take time out of his busy day to diagnose the ailing Harley.  As soon as he heard the engine knocks he asked about the “upgrades”.  With each upgrade he would simply ask “why?”.  He explained that Harley-Davidson® engineers carefully design and match each and component to work in perfect harmony, ensuring optimum performance and reliability.

The same concepts apply to another great machine, the mainframe.

IBM engineers design mainframes and their components to work in perfect harmony, garnering optimum performance and reliability.  I look at the mainframe itself as a component, or a piece of the whole.  Once you change one component you will likely need to change another, and another, and another.  This is ultimately a time consuming and costly endeavor that often results in major disruptions and budget overruns.

Change should not be dependent on the manufacturer’s end of support schedule.

At the time, my motorcycle came with a 1 year warranty.  It ended, but I didn’t rush out the door to buy another motorcycle.  The dealership was able to continue servicing the motorcycle.  I also knew I had my choice of several qualified independent shops that would be competent and reliable enough to keep the motorcycle in peak condition.  The same is true for the modern day data center.  Mainframe maintenance and service providers, with certified technicians and fast access to hardware, are usually able to offer a reliable and a far more affordable solution than their OEM counterparts.

We can’t blame manufacturers for trying to push the newest and shiniest off to the rest of us.  After all, we are conditioned to “need” a new smartphone every two years.  However, the cost of the newest mainframe system is a bit more to swallow than new phones for the management team.  Fortunately, most modern mainframes can keep data centers relevant and scalable thanks to the existence of mainframe service providers.  They can pick up where the manufacturer left off, and often put budget overruns in the rearview mirror.  You may even daydream of riding victoriously on an Iron Steed into that next budget meeting.

Ultimately it boils down to a single question: “Do we NEED to upgrade?”  If the initial answer is “Yes”, be sure to consider Sonny’s “Why”?

Dave Christensen is President and CEO of Simon Systems and has been active in the Mainframe Community for nearly 30 years.


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