Why The Mainframe Will Never Die

Users need support in ever more demanding workloads, greening strategies and cloud computing models, which guarantees the mainframe’s continuing relevance, says Anne Altman

Anne Altman is general manager of the IBM System z Platform in IBM’s Systems and Technology Group, she recently shared her views on the future of the mainframe with eWEEK.

How is the mainframe staying relevant in today’s technology discussions?
IBM is making significant investments to the mainframe platform to deliver business value to clients, from the hardware to the global community of application providers and partners. Most people know that the IBM mainframe has a long history in supporting the world’s most complex and critical business requirements.

Now they’re seeing that we continue to expand System z’s capabilities to an ever-increasing array of new workloads, ranging from business intelligence to enterprise infrastructure solutions to risk management solutions. And we’re making it easier for IT people to program, manage and administer a mainframe system.


There’s a great deal of innovation going on in energy-efficient technologies that take up less space, keep energy costs low and require fewer IT gurus to operate. The IBM mainframe also will continue to push the boundaries of virtualisation, resiliency and security capabilities.

These capabilities, together with the well-known systems management strengths of the mainframe, have made the Linux environment on System z an extremely attractive option for consolidation of distributed environments. And thanks to such innovations, in server consolidation, today’s System z10 may provide up to six times the same work in the same space and may provide up to 16 times the work for the same power consumption to simultaneously manage a variety of business operations.

Tell me more about the hot technologies that will take System z customers into the next decade.
IBM’s clients face increasingly challenging computational requirements, including a strong need to address the real-time and varied requirements of transactions. Even seemingly simple online retail transactions, such as adding an item to a shopping cart, are placing unprecedented demands on IT infrastructure. At the same time that an item is added to the cart, data mining processing is often performed behind the scenes. That processing can take advantage of the shopper’s purchase and Web browsing history as well as other information to determine additional items that the shopper may be interested in buying.

System z is evolving into a platform that will not only coherently manage these different processing components of the transaction, but will also more tightly couple them and optimise data flows. Mainframe-like attributes will be extended to a more heterogeneous set of computing resources. This will bring with it the ability to manage multiple and varied processing elements and workloads and maintain System z’s leadership position in the data centre. This model can also include other computing resources such as those based on Power (microprocessors) and x86 to serve specific application needs. So, for example, a banking application might have a Web server, application server, data server. Clients will be able to manage and monitor the performance of this combined heterogeneous workload from a single view.