A research survey conducted by Vanson Bourne has shown that the costs for upgrading global companies mainframes has soared 29 per cent over 2013 and that many IT decision makers are having problems with justifying the costs.

The survey, commissioned by Micro Focus and conducted in November 2013, quizzed 590 IT decision makers in nine countries, including the UK, France, Germany and the USA. They were asked questions regarding the role of the mainframe in their firms, and the challenges and risks associated with it.

Respondents overwhelmingly responded in saying that they will continue to rely on their mainframes for another 10 years, with 32 per cent believing that they will do so for longer. Despite this, 81 per cent said that they found it hard to justify the expense of maintaining core applications.

Think of the children

Four-fifths of respondents said that it is difficult to find staff or new recruits with mainframe applicable skills and that 14 per cent of staff members currently responsible for the maintenance of mainframe systems will retire within the next five years.

78 per cent of respondents blamed academia, pointing the finger at the lack of mainframe language programmes at universities. At present, records Vanson's data, only 27 per cent of universities around the globe include mainframe language as part of their courses.

"Core mainframe applications are often the lifeblood of the organization, yet the burden of IT debt is on the increase. A major factor in this is that many non-IT people think IT innovation only means brand new technology, rather than improving existing, critical applications," said Derek Britton, director of product marketing at Micro Focus. "The IT leadership challenge is to find smart ways to blend innovation projects with protecting and evolving their critical systems."