The death of the mainframe has been predicted many times over the years, but new research suggests that it is still a cornerstone of growth and innovation within enterprise infrastructure.

In a global study of 623 IT professionals by CA Technologies, over 72 percent of UK respondents said the mainframe is a strategic or highly strategic part of their current and future IT plans, and 37 percent plan to increase spending for mainframe software in the next 12-18 months.

In particular, the rise of cloud computing, Big Data and enterprise mobility are driving investment in mainframe technology.

Just under half (42 percent) of UK respondents believe the mainframe will be a highly strategic platform in their cloud computing efforts, and 65 percent say they already have or are planning to sanction mobile management of the mainframe within the next 18 months.

“We’re seeing a market in transition. Companies around the world are assessing how they can rapidly adapt to new cloud models and enable the delivery of new business services to meet the ever increasing demands on IT,” said Mark Combs, senior vice president for mainframe at CA Technologies.

“The mainframe continues to be a strategic platform that delivers the flexibility, scalability and security needed to meet these new service demands and business priorities.”

In spite of the major role that mainframes are expected to play as these new technologies emerge, however, over two thirds of respondents admitted to having experienced difficulty in hiring mainframe IT staff over the past 12-18 months.

Due to the “greying workforce” within the IT industry, some organisations are starting to lack the in-house skills or knowledge to manage a complex mainframe environment, which is running mission-critical applications.

Organisations are therefore looking to recruit staff with a cross-disciplinary skillset, and the vast majority are planning to implement some form of hybrid cross-platform management over the next 12 months.

“Today, with hybrid systems, the same management skills are relevant across both mainframes and distributed architectures – from both a hardware and software perspective,” said James Governor, founder and analyst at UK-based RedMonk, commenting on the news.

“Of course domain experience is still relevant, but it shouldn’t be seen as a reason to avoid investing in mainframes.”