Are IBM's Mainframes a Dying Technology?

Are IBM's Mainframes a Dying Technology?

Rick Dallmann | Data Center Architecture Director

The year was 1985 (don’t laugh at my age!), and I had just finished up my freshman year at Drexel University and was getting ready to start my first CO-OP job with IBM, working as a customer engineer (CE). I was tasked with fixing first-generation AT and XT DOS based IBM PC’s, desk top CRT’s, punch card readers, and printers.

Needless to say, this was invaluable experience, and for a broke college student, provided a great income! Even better yet, this job experience was the main factor in my decision to put my mechanical engineering degree to use in a career in the data center field.

When IBM Mainframes Ruled the Data Center

My greatest income potential and invaluable experience developed over the following weekends. IBM afforded me the opportunity to earn extra money working in enterprise-class data centers pulling Bus and Tag cables to connect mainframes.

Huge, water-cooled, and the most powerful computing machines at the time, these beasts required the back of a young college student to pull and lay the heavy and monstrous copper Bus and Tag cables under the data center’s raised floor tile. These Bus and Tag cables were needed to communicate and process the vast amounts of information from the various servers and storage devices through to the mainframes.

This seems like ages ago now, and in fact, it really was. Look where we stand now! Almost 35 years later, those of us in the industry are anxiously awaiting the release of IBM’s latest and most technologically advanced mainframe, the rumored z15!

It just a few short years ago that some of the industry’s “most knowledgeable and brightest” were declaring the mainframe dead. We heard some harsh statements, such as:

  • "The last time I needed a mainframe, I fell off my dinosaur."
  • "...a dead and dying technology platform..."
  • "...irrelevant, legacy technology..."

As we enter into the latter part of 2019, however, it seems most of these remarks predicting the demise of IBM’s mainframe have been grossly exaggerated. Many of these rumors initially arose among IBM’s mainframe competitors or competing topologies.


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IBM's Continued Innovation

How could these numerous doubtful analysts and industry experts be so wrong for so long? The answer is fairly simple to me.

From when I first became involved and made a career in this industry, IBM and its mainframe have been the industry’s most stable, resilient and secure enterprise system. It has always been more flexible and adaptable than any other platform. IBM’s mainframe has thrived for well over a half century because they have reinvented it time and again to support the growing and evolving needs and requirements of its enterprise customers.

So stayed tuned as we await the announcement of IBM latest generation mainframe, with many new advances and technologies. It is sure to keep this “dying dinosaur” around and relevant in the data center for many years to come.

At CABLExpress, we continue to provide the industry’s best fiber optic infrastructure solutions and are working to ensure this latest generation of IBM’s mainframe will have quality cabling support designed to optimize bandwidth and ease-of-use.


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Image courtesy of Erik Pitti, Flickr