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The mainframe is back, and it’s getting agile

Byron Connolly | Oct. 10, 2016
Demand for mainframe technology is not going away, Compuware says.

Compuware’s CEO Chris O’Malley is adamant that demand for mainframe technology is not going away.

“The mainframe is growing as it relates to the capacity on the planet,” O’Malley tells CIO Australia. “IBM’s z13, the last launch, is an incredible engineering marvel in terms of a hardware business compute platform and has set the stage for it to become even more essential to large insurance companies and banks.”

But there’s a problem. With 255 billion lines of COBOL code worldwide, it’s difficult to ‘advance that IP’ at the rate and pace necessary to meet the demands of organisations creating new fast-paced and agile digital processes, says O’Malley.

“They’ve got this huge mainframe with all this IP that is fused into Waterfall processes with slow, sequential means of delivering software.”

Compuware’s mainframe business has been in decline for several years. In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in November 2014, Compuware said revenue from its mainframe business was expected to drop by about 7 percent between 2014 and 2016.

In late 2014, Compuware’s new owner, U.S.-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo split the company’s two remaining businesses. Its mainframe software operation, still known as Compuware was separated from its application performance management software business, Dynatrace. Compuware acquired Dynatrace in 2011.

O’Malley joined Compuware in mid-2014 as president of the firm’s mainframe business before being elevated to CEO in December of that year, following the acquisition.

A long-term senior executive at CA Technologies and more recently CEO at Chicago-based startups Nimsoft and VelociData, O’Malley told CIO Australia he came in to Compuware to “shake the thing up to its core.”

“Over the last eight quarters I have been here, we’ve made these bold promises that every quarter we would prove, that you could actually do DevOps and Agile [activities] on mainframes,” he says.

“We’ve delivered new products, updates to our classic offerings and integration with preferred DevOps tools over quarter for the last eight. So we’ve made a quantum leap for the mainframe generally in terms of its capacity to thrive at the speed and agility necessary in the digital age and specifically to Compuware and our performance.

“We are building new tools that customers love and it has changed the fortunes of the company as well. Every quarter, we are integrating with traditional toolsets that allows DevOps folks to have dominion over the platform using the tools that they are accustomed too.

"We are making it so the difference is only in syntax – it's COBOL versus C versus Java. To a computer science grad today, that's trivial. It's the difference between Italian and Spanish, it's subtle and they can easily pick it up. We've plugged the mainframe into the order of things that is familiar to them."


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