Is the mainframe a dead dinosaur just yet? The advent of distributed systems which propose to be replacements for mainframe technology, seems to be disruptive. Be that as it may, the important question is if distributed systems have the operational capability and performance requirements to replace mainframes completely. Developers from the COBOL era might definitely vote against mainframe solutions, but this technology has come a long way from those years. To make an objective decision between mainframes and distributed systems, here is a comparison of these solutions.
What are distributed systems?
Distributed systems are a new and evolved way of processing data through multiple nodes at a time. The data processing takes place on a network cluster of servers reducing latency to client-side applications or internal Business Intelligence tools.
Some developers consider distributed systems as a complete replacement for mainframe technology which seems outdated. Distributed systems are available as off-shelf SaaS solutions, but developers can customize them according to enterprise specifications and requirements.
This solution has been proved efficient since a single task can be divided amongst a cluster of nodes. Subsequently, the task can be handled more efficiently in contrast to a single node handling that request. Complex tasks can be subdivided into different nodes working towards a common objective, handling any request, which could be a data query or write-through.
Difference from mainframes
The main difference between distributed systems is the infrastructure used by these two computing solutions. Mainframes use a centralized server farm running the appropriate OS to support an enterprise’s application demands. Depending on the enterprise application requirements, a company using mainframe technology has a server room on-site.
In this case, the maintenance and repairs are conducted internally by I.T support. With mainframe modernization, enterprises can have this solution outsourced to reliable third parties. Some major players are offering Mainframe as a Service (MFaaS) solutions.
Companies still have the option of setting up their own mainframe hardware on-site and providing consistent maintenance if they have the means. This is why distributed system advocates generally refer to mainframes as clunky old dinosaurs. Fortunately, mainframe technology can be available as a service, making it leaner and more efficient for companies.
Which solution is cost-effective?
Cost efficacy is a major ranking factor when tech executives decide whether or not to implement a specific solution. Compared side-by-side, distributed systems are significantly more economical than buying mainframe hardware and setting it up.
In the long run, it also costs more to maintain a mainframe system when compared with using a distributed system as a SaaS or IaaS. However, using Mainframe as a Service dramatically compacts the costs of having a mainframe technology for enterprise applications.
Some MFaaS solutions are billed as pay-as-you-go solutions, making them very affordable. The costs of running a mainframe can be equal to distributed systems when used as an MFaaS solution. With cost-effective options, startups and small businesses can benefit from having a dedicated mainframe at the same cost as running a distributed system.
Mainframe technology’s heightened security
The main concern over distributed systems is the lack of control over the security measures of each node on the network cluster. End-users are increasingly becoming concerned about the security measures implemented in mobile app development since it has a direct bearing on the safety of their personal details.
Distributed systems have potential security loopholes, but mainframe systems have high-security measures. Although mainframe solutions might seem clunky and outdated, the security is heightened compared to distributed systems. If the mainframe is managed on-site, enterprises can customize the security measures directly.
When using MFaaS, enterprises can be assured of the latest security measures implemented on the mainframe hardware and OS. MFaaS service providers can retain their reputation by having the best security measures to fend off various cyberattacks.
Making mainframes modernized solutions
Data management companies have been working tirelessly to bridge the gap between mainframe solutions and distributed systems. The objective is to avail insights from COBOL legacy systems as modernized data fabrics that can be used on in-memory computing modules.
Effective methods that are in effect include Change Data Capture (CDC), which avails mainframe insights such as DB2 as a distributed in-memory data fabric. Also, data can be exposed using microservice APIs from legacy systems to modern applications using the latest technologies.
Mainframe modernization is a critical element for using legacy system insights on modernized enterprise applications. Cloud-based MFaaS solutions can be integrated with smart caching, significantly reducing the queries made to the mainframe. That affects the speed of mainframe systems, making them faster with reduced latency matching the performance of distributed systems.
Scalability between these systems
Which solution is more scalable between mainframes and distributed systems? At first glance, this seems like a no-brainer. Distributed systems are seemingly more versatile and have greater scalability. As a SaaS solution, distributed systems can be downscaled or upscaled autonomously. The service functions as an on-demand data processing and computing solution that can handle larger bits of insights whenever needed.
The modernized mainframe that is also available as a service also has the same scalability as distributed systems. MFaaS solutions also function as an on-demand service where enterprises use the pay-as-you-go billing option.
With that option, an enterprise has the latitude to scale operations on-demand, catering to peak seasons and times. Therefore, the scalability in these systems can be matched if a mainframe is outsourced as an MFaaS solution.
Mainframe solutions are significantly more reliable than distributed systems, especially if in-house hardware is used to power enterprise applications. The company has ultimate control of the hardware, making it easy to perform necessary updates and upgrades.
Outsourced mainframe hardware is also well-taken care of in a server farm. The core objective of MFaaS providers is to provide highly-available data management solutions with reduced latency and high reliability.
Distributed systems are reliable but only to a certain degree since this solution utilizes multiple servers. If one of the servers fails, there might be the risk of latency on critical enterprise application functions. On the other hand, the “dinosaur” nature of mainframes makes them nearly immortal and less prone to suffering from service failures.