1 in 4 mainframes now run blockchain, 50% want to expand

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IBM z15

Mainframes have been going out of fashion in recent years as cloud computing took over – but now blockchain is helping drive a resurgence.

New research conducted by Forrester, for Wipro and Ensono, found that almost 50% of large businesses are looking to expand their mainframe capabilities over the next two years.

The study, which involved 153 Information Technology decision makers at director level or above, found that more than 1 in 4 organisations are currently running blockchain on their mainframes.

The survey backs up research from Allied Market Research in July that found the global mainframe market is forecast to grow from $2.09 billion in 2017 to grow to $2.9b by 2025.

Blockchain on the mainframe

While traditional applications and workloads including Enterprise Resource Planning (48%), finance and accounting (45%) and HR management (44%) remain the mainstay of mainframe computers, 27% of those surveyed said they were running new blockchain initiatives and containerized applications.

Of course, a mainframe computer is pretty much the opposite of a decentralised network, so you might be wondering about the use case for blockchain on mainframes.

mainframe blockchain

IBM owns pretty much the entire market

To answer that, you need to understand that the world’s biggest mainframe vendor by a very long chalk is IBM, whose flagship Z series of mainframes accounts for 4/5ths of the entire market.

IBM has also enthusiastically embraced private, permissioned and hybrid blockchains with its IBM Blockchain Platform and Hyperledger and IBM is pushing the case to marry blockchain with mainframes.

IBM has a blockchain software stack incorporating Hyperledger designed to run specifically on its flagship Z system mainframe hardware.

Mainframes are among the most reliable IT infrastructure available, so IBM is selling businesses on leveraging the reliability of mainframes to host data stored on blockchain, and to use them to reliably distribute data across a wide network of hosts.

The enormous computing power of mainframes is also useful for cryptographic hashing.

Mainframes can process 1 trillion web transactions a day

While mainframe computers have been overshadowed by cloud computing, the technology is improving every year.

This week IBM announced its newest model the z15 which can process up to 1 trillion web transactions a day and handle 2.4 million Docker software containers, while offering unparalleled security and encryption capabilities.

You might be surprised by how much of your everyday life gets run through a mainframe computer.

Philip MacLochlainn, a business unit executive of Systems Server at IBM, told ZDNet this week:

“It’s pretty startling. 85% of all credit cards, 29 billion ATM transactions per year, 92 of the top 100 banks … 12 billion passenger flights are booked using IBM z each year, and if I trust Google and their count of the number of searches they do, we do 5x more transactions on mainframes — our customers do — than Google does searches each year,” he said.

“It has a dramatic effect on people’s lives … essentially keeps the world running.”

Blockchain helps keep mainframes relevant

According to Forrester Consulting: “Mainframes have long hosted mission-critical business … However, more than a quarter of firms see the mainframe as a place to run emerging workloads like blockchain and containerized applications. These benefit from integrated security and massive parallelization.” it said.

Brian Klingbeil, Executive Vice President, Technology and Strategy at Ensono said the research shows mainframes are not just a legacy item.

“The latest generation of mainframe technology will now run the same cutting-edge applications and services as cloud infrastructure,” he said.

“Mainframe modernization is giving enterprises not only the ability to continue to run their legacy applications, but also allows them to embrace new technologies such as containerized microservices, blockchain and mobile applications.”