Mainframes and iPads Aren’t Such Strange Bedfellows

Disruptive IT Trends4 minutes readJul 7th, 2010
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The explosion of interest in new devices, such as iPads and 4G smartphones, is sparking a surge of new client conversations about providing rich applications for customers and employees in the field.

Clients using our flagship ClearPath mainframes are asking for the best of both worlds for their applications. We are working to give them ClearPath’s world-class reliability and security, paired with the latest mobile and Web app interfaces. This will help them move straight to the cutting edge.

One need look no further than the new Unisys-sponsored IDC consumerization of IT research to understand why mainframes are emerging as a central topic in the conversation of mobilizing applications for consumers and employees.

The study notes that transaction volumes are expected to increase fourfold in the next three years due to increasing use of consumer tech in the enterprise (see figure below). This makes system reliability and scalability absolutely paramount — and mainframes manifestly deliver them cost-effectively. Windows or Linux servers spread across multiple data centers likely won’t provide the five nines that are increasingly required.

Even more rapid changes in interactions

iPhones are fast joining mainframes as mission-critical

Just as mainframe users have always had justifiably high expectations of their systems, end users now have similar expectations of the consumer technology they use for work. No matter what the network or device, or where the application is located, users never expect it to fail. Just consider Apple’s conflict with Adobe to see the premium that Apple itself puts on reliability, security, standards, and the user experience.

ClearPath customers are similarly demanding. Increasingly, they want the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch to have equal standing with other devices in their mission-critical ecosystem. That’s why we’re working with Apple on apps and interfaces that make it easier for the iPad and iPhone to reach the point where they can serve as secure mobile endpoints for mission-critical apps.

Users of Apple mobile technology in the enterprise love three things about ClearPath systems: superior reliability, a virtually hacker-proof platform, and the ease of mainframe-to-endpoint provisioning. In addition, some of the world’s most valuable data resides on mainframes. And for iPhones and iPads to become mission-critical devices, we must work with Apple to make deployment as easy as possible.

We used to reserve the term “mission-critical” for describing only the top echelon of computing systems. Certainly mobile iPhone apps wouldn’t intuitively have been included in that definition. But today we have to classify most customer- and employee-facing applications as mission-critical when we consider how fast a sale can be lost or an important task left incomplete if they don’t work, or if the app is not available in the device the customer is using.

For example, consider the airline industry’s recently introduced fee structure and all the new rules that change what consumers pay depending on traveler status and other considerations. The data required to serve up a dynamic ticket price resides in mission-critical applications spread across several business entities.

The consumer with an iPad on her lap has no idea how her ticket price is being configured. But it had better be right, and served with a dial-tone class of support, 7×24, no matter if she is using Expedia, American Airlines, or Momondo. It only takes a flick to find a competitor’s booking engine, for example. A mainframe mobile environment is the ideal platform for fast, secure delivery on these application requirements.

Every application we deploy is mission-critical in our eyes — especially those we’re developing to make it easier for clients with consumer devices to access and manage ClearPath resources. We’re proving that, contrary to some skeptics’ pronouncements, mainframes are increasingly relevant in the enterprise, and the consumerization of IT has made them even more so.