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Updated by Charles Bystock on 04/24/2014

mainframe-outsourcing-trendsMainframes remain a foundational component of IT infrastructure for many companies, particularly very large and complex organizations that handle massive volumes of data. But in a wildly changing technology environment where cloud computing, mobile technologies and social media have dramatically changed the way we view and use data, what’s the forecast for mainframe outsourcing trends?

The role of mainframes has changed.

One of the mainframe outsourcing trends that continues from last year is the expanding use of mainframes to handle customer-facing transactions. Perhaps the most demanding of all stakeholders, customers expect to have access any time, from anywhere, with seamless, lightning-fast responsiveness. They don’t care if it’s peak season or a peak time day.

The pressure on mainframes and those who manage them is relentless and likely to get worse.  

Increasing automation, new work-around applications and a renewed emphasis on comprehensive documentation can all help lighten the load on the incoming ranks of mainframe operatives, but they can’t do much to resuscitate legacy systems that are simply too old and “underpowered” to upgrade. Companies will need to explore alternatives.

Some experts see an increase in virtualization among mainframe outsourcing trends.

This will be facilitated by the availability of products like Savanna and Serengeti that support automated transition of big data platforms to a virtualized environment.

Platform-as-a-service will become more prevalent.

As companies look for faster development capability and greater overall agility to retain their competitive position, cloud-based PaaS will gain popularity. IT managers believe they will be able to save money, better integrate data, gain greater insight through increased analytics and still maintain a level of control that builds confidence in the C-suite.

Big data continues to be a big issue.

Exponential data growth is expected to continue. And it’s not just a matter of using mainframes or other resources to manage and store data generated internally. Increasingly, big data is coming from external sources such as social media, but companies will need to integrate and analyze this data, too, in order to effectively understand and meet employee needs and customer desires.

Many industry watchers predict companies will put all their big data to more strategic use, assessing and improving every aspect of organizational function. Among other benefits, increased analysis will enable CIOs to identify how well their current mainframe infrastructure is working, where gaps exist and what mainframe outsourcing trends may help fill those gaps.

A quest for more effective vendor relationships.

Worldwide, companies continue to complain about the costs of mainframe outsourcing, especially when those costs relate to poor quality service and the resulting need to spend internal IT staff time monitoring outsourced providers.

Companies who have adopted a multi-provider approach to IT sourcing are looking for ways to encourage – or force – their suppliers to work collaboratively on their behalf, rather than functioning as a series of unrelated entities.

India expands into infrastructure.

Having established itself as a go-to resource for application development and business process outsourcing, India is now eyeing the infrastructure marketplace. Will you have to choose between an India-based provider and American-as-apple-pie IBM? Some industry analysts say there could be distinct advantages in everything from cost savings to innovation and flexibility. But exactly how this will affect mainframe outsourcing trends – and how soon -- remains to be seen.

For businesses in every industry, customers are now driving the bus. For now, the most successful companies will be those who identify and embrace mainframe outsourcing trends that can enable them to smoothly and efficiently meet evolving customer expectations.

 But stay tuned. In some ways, forecasting mainframe outsourcing trends can be as hazy as forecasting the weather. And, like the weather, change is a constant that can blow trends off-course.