Companytocompany Comparisons

Reliability of Case Studies For any business considering a major comp uting systems change, the experiences of others who have made similar changes should, in principle, provide useful input. However, few well-documented case studies exist, and those that do are not always representative. The lack of reliable information is most obvious for mainframe migration patterns.

Organizations that have replaced and removed mainframes entirely fit a distinct profile. In the majority of the cases, these organizations possessed older equipment and aging applications portfolios. Their IS organizations were characterized by lack of previous capital investment, poor management practices, inefficient manual coding techniques for applications development and maintenance, lack of automation, and just about every other factor that leads to excessive IS costs.

All this raises some major questions about comparisons based on case studies. Even where overall savings in IS costs are realized, the savings occur only under specific circumstances, usually because IS costs were abnormally high to begin with. Organizations with higher-quality applications, current hardware, efficient software, and different workloads will have an entirely different cost structure. Cost savings are particularly unlikely in an organization that uses system resources and personnel effectively.

Mainframe replacements are a relatively small percentage compared with the total volume of mainframe procurements. A survey of mainframe migration patterns in the United States in 1993, compiled by Computer Intelligence InfoCorp of La Jolla, California, is particularly revealing (Exhibit 6).

Exhibit 6. U.S. Mainframe Migration Patterns in 1993 for 309X and 4300 Series (From Computer Intelligence InfoCorp, La Jolla, CA, 1993.)

According to the survey data, users of 309X-class systems who acquired new mainframe systems outnumbered those who moved to alternative platforms by more than 20 to 1. If 309X upgrades are included, the figure is 50 to 1. Among 4300-class users, new mainframe acquisitions outnumbered replacements by more than 8 to 1. This figure does not include users who upgraded within 4300 product lines.

The extent of real mainframe replacement appears to be relatively small. The majority of downsizing actions involve moving specific applications from mainframes to smaller platforms, not actually replacing mainframes. This affects the validity of cost-savings claims. Although the cost of individual applications may be lower on new platforms, this does not necessarily mean that overall IS costs were reduced. In many cases, applications are either relatively small or exploit mainframe databases, or both. In addition, transition costs are seldom included in calculations.

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