Dynamic Business Intelligence

Leveraging mainframe assets to help steer the business

Published/updated: March 2009

by Tony Lock and Dale Vile

One of the most versatile assets many organisations have in their IT infrastructure is the mainframe, which in recent years has evolved to deal effectively with a wide range of workloads. One workload that mainframe users may wish to consider again is data warehousing. In this paper we look specifically at how the latest IBM System z capabilities could allow the mainframe to play a more central role in a coordinated business intelligence strategy. We consider factors such as the potential use of the mainframe in managing operational risk and control, the use of real-time BI, and the increasing focus on the optimisation of running costs.


Process latency in the delivery of business information is no longer acceptable
Gone are the days when organisations could rely on a handful of analysts to periodically process ‘the numbers’ on business performance to generate monthly management reports. In today’s business environments, relying solely on this approach cannot maximise efficiency or competitiveness, as those driving the business need to know about important developments before it is too late to act. The need nowadays is for an on-demand, holistic, real-time view of business performance. As a consequence, the modern business intelligence (BI) infrastructure must deliver consistent information, proactively across the organisation in a timely, secure and cost effective fashion.

Flatter organisations, empowered workforces and more accessible technologies have
conspired to create new challenges The flattening of organisational structures and the devolution of decision making tasks means that more people today require management information to do their jobs. However most organisations are not geared up to cope with this ‘democratisation of business intelligence’ – their core infrastructures are not designed to deal with the rapid, secure and broad information delivery. Numerous ‘small footprint’ solutions have sprung up independently at departmental, workgroup and even individual employee level, causing significant information fragmentation. This leads to manual overheads, incomplete views of the business, multiple versions of the truth, user frustration and ineffective processes.

A more coordinated architectural approach is required, but it’s not that easy
The time has come for many organisations to adopt a coordinated architectural approach to business intelligence. While deploying yet another local, independent data warehouse may appear a good idea, this risks perpetuating the issue of fragmentation. A more centrally managed approach ensures the enterprise operates using a secure, cost effective, single version of the truth which can be built upon, rather than every system creating its own story and requiring individual management.

The answer for many might already be sitting in their data centre
For those organisations that already have a mainframe occupying the data centre, a pertinent question is whether it could provide the joined up capabilities that may be lacking. Recent advances in the IBM System z architecture, coupled with associated developments in software and tooling, plus significant changes in mainframe pricing options can now provide a linchpin to enable a more coordinated, secure, and cost effective architectural approach to solving the business intelligence challenge, especially in scenarios where much of the business data resides on the mainframe, thereby avoiding many costs and risks associated with data movement.

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