The future of mobile is the mainframe

By Jonathan Hassell

The future of mobile may involve many pieces and moving parts, but one part that ought to get more attention is the mainframe. Enterprise leaders have millions of dollars invested in mainframe products and services that run their businesses, yet they seem unable to grasp how a new-age mobile app can also leverage existing deployments of transaction-processing systems.

Here are five ways that the mainframe could be part of the future of mobile.

1. The mainframe lets you use what you already have

Your data can continue to reside wherever it resides now. There is no point in disrupting and replacing millions of dollars of hardware and development investment in mainframes and transaction-processing platforms simply because your organization wants to develop a mobile app. In fact, the quickest way to develop an app is to have your existing investments store the data and do the processing. The app can simply provide the interface and commands, while the big iron can handle the number crunching and the storage aspects. It already does, and there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

2. Middleware makes quick work of interfacing mobile apps with transaction-processing back ends

Middleware can sit in between your mobile app’s front end and your existing mainframe or transaction-processing platform. It can abstract away a lot of the difficult coding and link building required, making it super simple to integrate mainframe data into your mobile app. It can also have transactions processed on your existing infrastructure while remaining very responsive and fluid on the mobile app side of the equation. Middleware packages are inexpensive, generally have one-time licenses and can be used repeatedly for multiple projects within the same organization.

3. The mainframe platform is reliable and consistent — something mobile apps desperately need

Mainframes are designed to be extremely stable, run for years at a time and serve as the backbone of many mission-critical operations. They scale well, can handle a heavy load and have better capacity for crunching and transactions, ideally situating them as the future of mobile. Studies have shown that stability and consistency in mobile app experiences are a huge factor in consumer acceptance, loyalty and use. Pairing a well-designed mobile app with a highly stable and secure back end ticks the box on this very important user requirement.

4. Mainframe back ends are highly performant and great for transaction-based mobile apps

Right up there with stability and consistently is the ability for mobile apps to perform actions quickly. Many of us have had experiences with slow mobile apps, especially in time-sensitive situations where the lack of speed was frustrating, such as at an airport gate or while waiting in line to pay for coffee with the app. Slow apps lead to abandoned transactions, lack of follow-through and resistance to using the mobile app on the go. “It’s always slow” or “I can never find what I need” are common refrains about apps that were not fast enough to get the job done. The future of mobile includes a fast, performant mainframe back end.

5. You can change faster

If new “micro channels” open up, using your existing performant mainframe investment along with new mobile tools for fast, agile development lets you experiment with capturing new customers and business more quickly. You do not have to design the entire system again. Your app or site can be highly responsive for mobile users, and you can launch in new areas before competitors.

Mainframe platforms and apps are not mutually exclusive and in fact can work quite well together. The key to the future of mobile lies in understanding how.

Written By

Jonathan Hassell

President, 82 Ventures

Jonathan Hassell runs 82 Ventures, a technical writing and consulting firm based in Charlotte, NC. He centers his focus around network administrator, security, the cloud, and mobile technologies.

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