Mainframe Matters: How Mainframes Keep the Financial Industry Up and Running

The mainframe is at the core of technology strategy in many industries, but critics often question whether it is still relevant. In this new series, “Mainframe Matters,” we’ll examine some of the industries where it plays a critical role, and answer the question: Why does the mainframe matter today?

Let’s start by taking a look at how the mainframe plays a vital role in banking and the financial industry at large.

Theak Pel, Business Systems Analyst at U.S. Bank explained, “The mainframe is a crucial part of our IT department. It’s really the heart of IT, at the core of all our technology strategies.”

And U.S. Bank is just one of many – 92 of the top 100 banks use the mainframe to provide banking services to customers, and other types of financial services companies depend on the mainframe, as well. Visa, for example, uses the mainframe to process billions of credit and debit card payments every year. According to some estimates, up to $3 trillion in daily commerce flows through mainframes.

What’s the draw? Why do major banks and financial institutions overwhelmingly rely on the mainframe instead of other computing platforms? The mainframe’s speed, capacity, intelligence, security, and accountability are all essential to the financial industry’s success.

Processing Power and Speed

Think about the transactions that the finance industry handles: ATM operations, credit card usage, money transfers and the management of investment capital, to name just a few essential financial functions. Each of those operations requires instant response, and that’s what the mainframe is equipped to deliver.

Speed is important, but the mainframe’s ability to handle volume is equally important. Banks and financial services deal with huge amounts of data and create massive, constant demands on their infrastructure. Other platforms cannot match the mainframe when it comes to the ability to handle millions of transactions.

Integration with Newer Assets

Even though mainframes have been around for so long, they have the ability to run newer applications and systems, as well as maintain legacy applications. Pel explained that the mainframe is always keeping up with the latest technology, so it’s well adapted to supporting many different applications. This is particularly helpful when it comes to supporting mobile banking transactions. The mainframe is able to meet the needs of bank customers who expect access to financial data anytime, anywhere.

Availability and Aversion to Downtime

One of the biggest challenges for the finance industry is the risk involved: any downtime has a large impact. Imagine not being able to check your account balance or withdraw money from an ATM. Those disruptions in service could be enough to prompt customers to change banks. That’s why Pel emphasized that mainframers working in the financial industry tend to have rigorous protocols and procedures in place to test vigorously before production to ensure success.

“There’s a lot of visibility in terms of risk,” Pel explained. “We manage some of the most important banking applications that can’t be down for any period of time. There’s pressure to make sure that any changes put into place are successful, so we test as much as we can. That way, we can avoid any potential downtime.”

Why Do Mainframes Matter Today?

From SHARE’s perspective, mainframes are an indispensable asset for businesses of all kinds. Here are just a few stats to back it up:

  • Mainframes host critical core IT for: 92 of the world’s top 100 banks; 23 of the 25 top airlines; 10 of the world’s top 10 insurers; and 71 percent of Fortune 500 companies.
  • Mainframes run 30 billion transactions per day, hold 80 percent of the world’s business data and handle 90 percent of all credit card transactions.
  • Mainframes host more transactions daily than Google (1.3 million/second on CICS vs. 68,542/second on Google), including 55 percent of all enterprise transactions.
  • Mainframes consume only 6.2 percent of worldwide IT spend. Yet, they run 68 percent of production workloads and an estimated 220Bn lines of code, with the highest levels of security and reliability.

It’s hard to imagine a world without mainframes. Critical IT systems in so many industries simply couldn’t function the same without them. Stay tuned to this series, as we dive into more ways that mainframes matter today.

Check out the SHARE Content Center for more articles, webcasts and presentations touching on important issues in mainframe, including technology, training and industry trends.

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