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“You can do mobile on a mainframe? Really? Show me.”
Pratin Ashtekar 2700046SAG firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  websphere mainframe appinfra mobile system_z_software smarterplanet richard_gamblin | 6,016 Visits
By Richard Gamblin
Software Architect WebSphere, Mobile, SmarterPlanet
and System z Software.
This comment, from the Chief Technology Officer of one of my largest clients, is one that I hear a lot just now. My clients seem genuinely surprised that not only can you deliver a mobile infrastructure on an IBM System z mainframe server, but that there are terrific reasons why the mainframe is the perfect place for mobile.
First, let’s think why mobile is in the minds of so many business and community leaders. Providing a mobile face to your organization is not as simple as adding a new channel. Mobile technologies are a disruptive influence on current business practices and are fundamental to how organizations operate today.
How does IBM System z fit? And why should the underlying hardware platform for mobile even matter? Before we get to that, let’s look at three important characteristics for a mobile service and think about the role that the hardware platform can play.
Three characteristics of a successful mobile service
Remember, I’m not talking about the beautifully designed, easy-to-navigate user experience from the mobile app. This is all about the service that feeds the app with all of the information for it to become a necessity, rather than just another app.
One of most commonly quoted statistics that I’ve seen is that over 90% of smartphones users keep their phones within arms reach 24 hours a day. And we check those smartphones up to 150 times each day! (Wow! That’s a lot!) These statistics are reflected by the conversations I have with clients and colleagues. Banks observe a peak at 2 a.m. on Friday, or tax returns are completed between 11 a.m. and midnight on 25 December here in the UK.
So, if the mobile service becomes unavailable, even well outside traditional working hours, it can impact your business.
A recent study , released at the 2014 National Retail Federation conference, revealed that many of us are happy to share our personal preferences but only as long as we can get a better deal. That better deal might be a discount voucher from a retailer, a holiday insurance offer from an underwriter, or a last-minute reduced airfare from an airline company. Ultimately, mobile channels provide marketing teams a terrific opportunity to push out notifications based on personal preferences that have the potential to overwhelm a mobile service. Just think about the phenomenal growth observed in mobile traffic during Cyber Monday.
Again, let’s consider the implications here. If you offer an ultra-brief marketing campaign to boost the sales of a particular product, the underlying mobile service needs to handle a potential surge of new business.
As a consumer, it’s wonderfully convenient not to have to keep entering credit card details, email addresses, and postal addresses. The only way to do this is to trust the organization to protect your identity and personal details. There has been a recent spate of unfortunate examples of where the security processes have fallen down, and the reputation of the organization has suffered as a result. There are some scenarios where this security issue might seem less important, such as the rewards of a coffee chain. However, when we think about an app for government or banking, security is critical.
In this case, we need to think about the mechanisms that sit within, and beyond, the mobile service that give organizations and consumers the confidence to do business through mobile channels.
Ok, now let’s revisit our two earlier questions:
Why does the hardware platform matter?
My observations about the characteristics of a successful mobile service should give a few clues about the importance of the underlying hardware platform. There will be a direct impact unless the mobile platform:
So, the hardware platform needed to deliver these levels of service must meet or exceed these requirements. Enter the mainframe. The IBM System z mainframe is designed and optimized to excel at these characteristics and to deliver a reliable, scalable, and secure service. As such, it is a natural fit for the requirements of a mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP), such as IBM Worklight.
Why mobile on IBM System z?
But wait; can’t these things be done on other hardware platforms? Build a responsive system that is always available? That adopts a scalable infrastructure? And one that securely delivers a mobile service without compromising the integrity of the business?
One aspect that is often overlooked is that, because mainframes are designed from the ground up to provide shared application and data services, they can innately provide the qualities of service necessary for an ultra-reliable, scalable, and secure service.
Let’s take a couple of examples.
Suppose the mobile service needs to be ultra-reliable. You need to protect against hardware failure, loss of a network, issues with the operating system, and the application server that provides the mobile service. To do that, you typically duplicate each of these components and have multiple environments to acquire, operate, and replace after a period of time. Depending on how important your app is, all of this might be duplicated again in another region. All of this redundancy is built into the IBM System z platform.
Perhaps it can still be more cost effective to build out this manually. Let’s think about the scalable aspect to this. Suppose you are establishing a new mobile service. You don’t yet know how successful this new service is going to be. Ideally, it will be wildly successful, although it’s tricky to anticipate whether you will need to double or triple the hardware requirements next week, next month, or next year. On many systems, this planning would involve ordering and fulfilling additional hardware and staging the roll out of new environments, which may become larger and more challenging to manage. On the IBM System z platform, additional processing and memory resources can be activated to dynamically meet the requirements with no loss of the end service.
These two examples illustrate how a multitude of factors can contribute the economic argument for delivering a scalable, reliable, and secure hardware platform to underpin a mobile service.
These kinds of discussions are going on in many organizations around the world. To get some idea of the interest in this topic, IBM has recently released an IBM Redbooks Point of View publication about mobile on IBM System z. For a mobile solution overview with an IBM System z at the core there is also a brand new IBM Redbooks Solution Guide . In addition, IBM will shortly publish a follow-on IBM Redbooks Design Guide publication, which explore this topic much more extensively.
Are you surprised by the case for mobile on IBM System z? Let me know what you think about betting your mobile enterprise application platform on IBM System z.