Optimism around the future of mainframes has reached a three year high, according to a survey of 1,100 mainframe users .

Even though many voices in the IT industry have signalled the gradual death of the mainframe, there is 13 per cent more optimism than last year about the technology's future among its users, according to a survey of 1,100 customers of management software supplier BMC. The report said many businesses expected to increase their capacity and budgets for mainframes this year.

With mainframes "often operated in isolation from the rest of IT", tools and applications shared between the mainframe and distributed systems have an important place, the survey said.

Some 63 per cent of those without a cross-platform product highlighted the need for shared applications, and many plan to implement shared service desk software, change management and IT service management.

Nearly a third of companies had shared operational management between mainframes and distributed IT, and a further 38 per cent operated common standards and operational guidelines.

Rich Ptak, co-founder at analyst firm Ptak, Noel & Associates, said the mainframe market is “very active”. He added that “as the proportion of spending is weighted more towards software versus labour and hardware, this shows that mainframe users can focus on getting maximum benefit from platform applications rather than routine support and maintenance tasks”.

Software was the most expensive part of running mainframes, respondents said, as they spent heavily on automation of processes. Cost reductions and productivity improvement were their key targets, but they said labour costs for mainframes were lower than for the IT average.

Rising energy costs are a major issue for 87 per cent of the firms, even though an undisclosed “significant number of customers” said they were only reactive in this area, dealing with problems after they arise.

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