New Survey Reveals IBM Mainframe Customers' Preferences

IBM mainframe customers would prefer a single unified authentication system that lets users securely access both mainframe and non-mainframe applications, a new survey suggests.

The research finds that this would encourage more mainframe customers to move away from relying solely on passwords in favor of stronger protection such as multi-factor authentication (MFA). Mainframe professionals also recognize that it is easier and more cost effective to deploy the same MFA solution across mainframe and other environments such as Microsoft Windows.

In the survey of 80 mainframe professionals by Macro 4, a division of UNICOM Global, 83% of respondents said that logging into multiple systems separately using different authentication methods wastes time, while 78% said it is too easy for users to forget or confuse login credentials if they have several to remember. In addition, 63% said supporting multiple authentication systems ties up IT resources. 

At the same time, 40% of survey participants suggested that having separate authentication solutions for mainframe and non-mainframe environments within the enterprise is a disadvantage because it makes deploying MFA more challenging. Most mainframe customers still rely solely on password protection, but recognize that an MFA solution, which uses two or more security tests or "factors," such as a randomized PIN or a fingerprint scan, would help them strengthen access security.

“Most mainframe professionals today are aware that they need stronger authentication to protect access to sensitive information. Passwords are just too easy for hackers to steal or crack. By adding extra factors, MFA makes the hacker’s job harder,” said Keith Banham, mainframe research and development manager at Macro 4.

In Macro 4’s research, only 27% of participants had already adopted MFA to protect access to mainframe applications, compared with 42% who had implemented MFA on their Windows and other non-mainframe applications. Just 15% use MFA in both mainframe and non-mainframe environments, despite more than two-thirds (67%) believing that an integrated security strategy covering both mainframe and non-mainframe platforms is the ideal scenario.

Macro 4 conducted the poll at a conference in November 2019. An infographic highlighting the results of the survey can be found at