Local innovations need support from government and corporates

| September 19, 2016

Not many people know about a technology that is keeping our lives from descending into the chaos of record keeping anxiety. Ben Pearson, CEO of start-up Mainframe Cloud, explains.

Imagine if there was a technology that you interacted with every day. A technology that knew everything about you – your financial transactions, travel bookings, insurance claims, tax returns, welfare payments – a technology that’s been the mainstay of the global economy for over 50 years. You’d think you would have at least heard about it, right?

The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. The technology, to which I am referring, is mainframe computers. Ask the average person on the street, and the reality is that most have absolutely no idea about the role they play in keeping our lives from descending into a turgid miasma of record keeping anxiety. It is estimated that 80% of the world’s data resides on mainframes. They are, and continue to be, the primary system of record for government, insurance companies, retailers, airlines, banks and others. So important are Westpac’s mainframes to their core business, that a 60 second outage has the potential to impact over 150,000 customer transactions.

Given their importance and the amount of time that that they have been part of our technology landscape it’s hardly surprising that both the hardware and software market for these computers is dominated by some of the world’s best known companies – IBM, CA Technologies and BMC, to name a few. Since the day they were invented, software vendors have made it their mission to fill the mainframe with as much software as possible.

Because the data managed by mainframes is often highly sensitive, security is a huge concern. This means new software is difficult to get onto the mainframe, but once it’s there, it’s as equally difficult to remove. In an era when most CIOs are looking for flexibility in their technology stack, it’s no surprise that mainframe is regarded as a technology ‘stick in the mud’.

So if you’re a start-up business with plans to revolutionise the way that software interacts with the mainframe, you’d better know exactly what you’re doing! At Mainframe Cloud, we think we do.  Comprised of five highly experienced mainframe developers and one entrepreneur, we established in February 2015 and are currently residents at the Stone & Chalk fintech hub in Sydney. At the heart of our solution is a proprietary technology that allows software to interact with the mainframe without needing it to be installed on the mainframe. Our technology makes it a whole lot easier for companies to develop, install and deploy new applications to the mainframe – making mainframe DevOps much more agile than is currently the case. One of the advantages of our platform is that it allows developers to build applications in modern web languages (e.g. Javascript, HTML5) instead of relying on some of the older, obsolete languages such as COBOL, REXX and PL/1.

In November 2015, we Beta tested our technology with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), and in June 2016 we commenced a Trial Licence Agreement. The ATO’s feedback was invaluable in helping us to commercialise our product and shape our future Road Map.

In order for Australian start-ups (and their innovations) to make their mark globally, support is needed from the ‘big end of town’. Government and corporates can play a huge role in helping to nurture local innovation by initiating pilot studies helping with the commercialisation process. At the moment there seems to be a fascination with start-ups located in Tel Aviv, London and/or San Francisco. I’m pretty sure these locations don’t have a monopoly on innovation. Perhaps some of the focus could be a little closer to home.