It was the great writer and humorist Mark Twain who, upon hearing of rumors that he had died, wrote: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” If he were alive today, he could apply that same quote to the mainframe computer.
As the millennium approached, more and more enterprises shifted from a mainframe-centric approach to the server-oriented model and with processing power and storage becoming more and more compact and affordable, it was natural to assume that the behemoth that lived in the back room with the raised floor had seen better days.
Not quite, it turns out. The market for mainframes is booming, and there is no sign that it will taper off now or in the foreseeable future. Here are five of the main reasons:
1. Scale. Just as processing power has increased exponentially, so has the information needing to be processed. The mainframe is the only machine in existence that can handle the sheer volumes of data that are created by the surge of e-commerce throughout the global economy.
2. Reliability. The mainframe has always been a workhorse. This is essential for businesses like payment processors, which process terabytes and even petabytes of information on a daily basis.
3. Uniformity. The mainframe can be the foundation of the entire enterprise computing environment. This makes things much less complicated from a training, services and maintenance perspective.
4. Flexibility. Today’s mainframes are not just “green screen” appliances anymore. They can run graphical applications built for Microsoft Windows or open source operating systems like Linux. In fact, the mainframe is probably the most flexible platform in computing today.
5. Technology. IBM, which has effectively cornered (estimated market share of 90%) the mainframe market, continues to pour research and development, time and money into this growing segment of its business. This ensures that mainframe technology will remain cutting edge and perhaps even one step ahead of server technology.
Ask anyone in IT about the next big thing in computing and it’s a good chance that the phrase “big data” will be uttered. Big data, or the harvesting and mining of the entire data universe will only be possible within a robust, secure and virtually unlimited processing environment. As the demand for big data gathering and analysis grows, the need for mainframe computing will grow along with it. Far from being laid to rest, the mainframe is alive and kicking big data management into the future.