Mainframes are alive and well within businesses, surviving the recession and helping businesses cut costs in spite of growing data volumes. That is the verdict of a survey of 1,765 IT professionals including system programmers and managers, technical architects and IT directors.

The future of mainframes has long been debated in the industry, but according to the survey many IT departments see them as offering the “industrial strength” processing and automation they require for crucial applications including cloud services.

Some 95 percent of businesses in Europe see the mainframe as a “viable platform”, a figure equal to the previous two years. Sixty three percent of the respondents to the survey, conducted by business service management vendor BMC, were the supplier’s customers and 37 percent were not.

Eighty four percent of those surveyed said they expected MIPS (millions of instructions per second, a measure of processing) usage to remain steady or grow over the coming years. The research agrees with a recent study by CA, which found 82 percent of respondents intend to use the mainframe in the future "either as much as or more than today".

Six in 10 said the mainframe will attract new workloads, promoted mostly by mainframe advantages including platform availability, security, centralised data serving, and transaction throughput strength.

Over half of large businesses plan to adopt zIIP speciality engines as part of attempts to grow their mainframes cost effectively. The news comes as respondents cited cost reduction and application modernisation as key priorities.

Skills issues have long been cited as a concern around mainframes, because as a long-used technology some of its most expert technicians are retiring or nearing retirement. But with the growing reliance on mainframes, the technology is said to be increasingly appealing to young IT professionals looking for an area of expertise.

Nick Glover, Europe, Middle East and Africa mainframe services VP at BMC, told Computerworld UK: “A number of companies, including finance firms, tell us that when they recruit IT graduates and leave them to choose an area of work, many are selecting mainframes. That’s a big change.”

Nevertheless, he said many mainframe experts needed to make their business case clearer to IT directors and other executives. “Mainframes have cut a lot of fat out of the business and helped centralise so much. But we mainframe people have to become better at demonstrating business value.”