Mainframes Still Have A Home In The Industry
A recent article in Technology Decisions, one of the National Underwriter Company’s other publications, suggested that insurers may not need to dump their legacy systems–including their mainframe computers–despite the rapidly advancing technology in networked systems.
This view resonates with at least two major insurance entities: insurer The Hartford, based in Hartford, Conn., and broker Willis North America, Nashville.
The Hartford has used mainframes since the 1970s, says Chief Technology Officer Ken Barger. He indicates that the company has kept up with mainframe technology through the years and will continue to use its legacy systems.
Currently, The Hartford uses several Hitachi mainframes. But for the past year, the company has been moving toward the IBM Z series, Barger says.
He cites several reasons for his company’s decision to keep its mainframes:
The Hartford has many staffers with “very good expertise in the mainframe arena” who operate “a very cost-effective environment for our business.”
“The mainframe itself is cost-effective as a technology platform.”
The Hartford runs several “very critical systems” on the mainframes every day, which represents “a major investment in applications that run on the mainframe environment,” Barger states.
Andy Nissenberg, CTO for Willis of North America, indicates that his company also uses mainframes. However, while keeping its “back-end processing” on the mainframe, Willis has been “migrating” away from the mainframe for its “client-facing applications.”
But Nissenberg still sees mainframes as an invaluable tool, particularly when a company has invested substantially in it.
A brokerage such as Willis does not have as heavy a transaction volume as, say, a manufacturer, he observes. Instead, different operations produce different transaction volumes, and Willis has found that the mainframe is “perfect” even for the heaviest of these volumes, he says.
He adds that the mainframe is very good at “process-management from an operational standpoint.”
He also says “the beauty of a mainframe is that it packs a lot of horsepower into a small space.”
Another potential problem for companies is the availability of staff that understands the particular mainframes that were installed years ago.
At The Hartford, this does not appear to be a major concern.