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The mainframe should be dead, but is it?

When I started working with technology back in the 1990’s people were already saying “the mainframe is dead”. I remember doing a Cobol course on an IT leadership program at GE and everyone in the classroom was saying “What is the point”? First we had the desktop revolution of the 1980’s, followed by the client-server revolution of the 1990’s, and if that wasn’t enough to kill the mainframe then came the cloud revolution of the 2000’s. With those three massive attacks on the mainframe it should really have been killed it off....but it didn’t...surprise suprise! The mainframe is still going strong at the enterprise level.

Why is still going strong after 5 decades? Firstly, because it is very expensive to migrate critical legacy applications to new environments. Secondly, the mainframe has evolved and adapted to the cloud. As commented by Nick Hardiman on Tech Repuclic:

The mainframe's relevance in a modern hybrid cloud architecture, running VMs on-premise and storing petabytes of data. Hodgson said the mainframe "has evolved a lot over the years. You can run Linux on the mainframe. We're leveraging Linux to do a VMware-like cloud environment--essentially a private cloud--on the mainframe."  

Hodgson talked about modern cloud providers. "A lot of what these big providers are doing is really trying to recreate the mainframe by hashing together a lot of servers." A private cloud made from many commodity boxes--one that can provide, say, 5,000 virtual machines--has things in common with a mainframe.

·  Both contain huge pools of CPU and memory for virtual machines, and massive amounts of storage for objects and images.

·  Both run an OS that virtualizes workloads to maximize efficiency.

·  Both can deal with high volumes of transactions. Many of the scaling problems being encountered in the cloud were solved long ago by mainframe technicians.”

Furthermore he goes on to say

The web did not kill print, MP3s did not kill the record industry, the mobile phone did not kill the desktop, and cloud computing has not killed off the mainframe. These disruptive technologies have caused drastic shifts in their markets

Since we have spend the best part of 2 decades saying Mainframes are dead but they are still going strong I will make the bullish prediction that they will most likely still be going strong for the next 2 decades......can you imagine when IT departments across the world opens up the champagne to celebrate a mainframe centenary anniversary.....how many generations of IT folks worked on that machine, now that begs the question why does my laptop seem to die every 3 years ......perhaps it has to do with the finance guru’s working at these technology giants and it is part of the marketing strategy to lure customers back for new hardware frequently to hand over more hard earned money!

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