Mainframers Get Ready for the Next Wave of Mobile Activity

Ask an IT director who has mainframe responsibility how a company's mobile activities impact his corporate responsibilities and he will likely talk about BYOD and its accompanying security issues. It is possible he might talk about capacity and planning and storage needs, but those issues surely won't be at the top of his list.

In twelve to 24 months, though, they could very well be as mobile enters its next stage of development. As this trend unfolds, we can expect to see mobile applications frequently, if not routinely, linked to IT infrastructure and business architecture--and the mainframe is expected to play an increasingly strategic role in managing all of this activity.

A Brief History of Mobile and the Mainframe

Mobile, up until now, has impacted mainframe operations in predictable ways. Apps, app stores and devices have been largely developed for the consumer in mind. Businesses, for their part, have rushed to adopt mobile strategies as well—but, again the consumer has been the expected end user. None of this has meant a significant change in terms of mainframe availability--basically, the mainframe doesn’t know or care if it must process a transaction originating from a mobile device or corporate desktop. 

The B2B User 

2013, many predict, will be the year mobile evolves into something far more sophisticated. Mobile B2B apps are expected to gain traction, especially as tablets continue to be adopted by companies. People working in the field—whether they are technicians, sales reps or just the typical corporate road warrior that travels a lot—are clamoring for more functionality from their devices. Their employers, not to mention vendors, are eager to give it to them.

Indeed this trend is already becoming apparent with mobile CRM, according to stats from Campaigner CRM. It has found CRM usage on mobile devices has increased by 97% year over year, and a 27% increased duration per visit. Also, the average number of page views has increased by 37% (21 pages vs. 15 pages previously).

Also, as Sage CRM Solutions SVP & GM Dan Wilzoch notes, more CRM applications now include mobile functionality at no extra cost or nominal cost and Web standards such as HTML5 allow applications, including CRM, to render data views perfectly on any device type and screen size. "And, aesthetically speaking," he says, "there is a success factor and positive image portrayed when using sleek devices instead of lugging a laptop."

IT Must Support Blended Data Scenarios 

Companies will also be calling on various IT functions—including and especially the mainframe--to better target their customers. And mobile will play a key role in not just gathering this data but delivering the subsequent message or offer.

Kristin Hambelton, Vice President, Marketing for Neolane, for example, predicts that 2013 will not only be the year that social, mobile and local strategies converge for businesses – but that businesses also make serious efforts to blend the online and offline experience for the customer. "For example, as marketers leverage Open Graph data on Facebook, brands can better engage and connect to consumers with real-time, location-based offers across a growing spectrum of channels and devices including mobile," she says. "Eventually, mobile will be the bridge between the online and offline experiences for consumers."

Or the "next level" scenario offered by Naeem Zafar, CEO of Bitzer Mobile, which involves voice-commands and tagging of data and applications that integrate with the device's native capabilities to give the user context sensitive alerts. "Imagine sitting in a bar or lounge at an airport and your mobile device tells you that the VP from the company that you were hoping to meet is fetching coffee in the next kiosk.  All the pieces are there for this type of interaction to happen as the evolution continues."

What This Means for the Mainframe  

What does all this real-time activity mean for the mainframe staff? Just for starters, they must start keeping a closer eye on accounting for growing storage, analytical and processing needs.

Capacity planning will also be more of an issue. According to BMC Software's Annual Worldwide Survey of Mainframe Users, 59% expect MIPS capacity (a measure of mainframe capacity) to grow as they modernize and add applications to address business needs. 

Enterprises already have a sense that this wave of investment is coming—budgets at many companies are being appropriately adjusted, indicates a global survey from CA Technologies study, "The Mainframe as a Mainstay of the Enterprise 2012." 

It reports that in terms of spend, just more than half (51%) of U.S. respondents and 46% of global respondents plan to increase spending for mainframe software in the next 12-18 months. One-third of U.S. respondents (30%) and 36% of global respondents anticipate an increase in hardware spending in the next 12-18 months and 37% of U.S. respondents and 44% internationally plan to increase spend on mainframe-related services.

This increase in spending is likely being driven by more than capacity issues created by BYOD. As reported in the President’s Corner blog previously, issues such as provisioning of secure mobile apps, governance and control over which devices can access the mainframe and what they can do once there, giving consumer devices access to mainframe services, and the security of endpoints are all considerations of bringing mobility into the enterprise.  

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