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IBM Mainframes - Are They Still Around?

Updated on October 3, 2010

If you are like many others, you last heard of IBM Mainframe a decade ago during the turn of the century and wondering if they are still around. Yes they are still around. They are not extinct. In fact they are sound and kicking.

What are Mainframes?

IBM Mainframes are powerful computers used by large corporations for critical applications and handling heavy volume of transactions. Some of these corporations are in field of finance, health care, insurance, banking, utilities and government. IBM Mainframes process millions of instructions per second and designed for high reliability, security, extensive input-output facilities. They can go on for years without any down time. Upgrades and software installations can be done without shutting them off. Many IBM mainframe installations have delivered over a decade of continuous business service. They are typically used in applications where downtime would be costly or catastrophic.

IBM z10 Mainframe
IBM z10 Mainframe

The year 2000 problem

During the year 2000 (also called Y2K), everybody (ok, many) thought IBM Mainframes could not survive in the new century because of the six digit date fields (older IBM Mainframe version had only six digits to hold date, ex: mmddyy).

If you are not familiar with Y2K problem, here is the scoop:

When the IBM Mainframe computers were invented, memory was expensive and they decide to go with only six digit space for holding the date fields, without accommodating the century portion of a date. So, September 4, 1950 was stored as 090450 (the century part was left out). When we have to store the date of September 18, 2000, the mainframe system would have stored the date as 091800 (the century portion 20 was not stored). This would have resulted in blunders when the date calculations are made.

The decision time

Some companies got the fear in their spine and rushed through the migration of application to client server based architecture like power builder. Many other companies took a strong stand and expanded the date field in their software applications to eight digit fields before the dawn of the century (Midnight of January 1, 2000).

IBM has released several newer versions of mainframes, with the latest being IBM zEnterprise 196 (z196). zEnterprise System (z196) is the most scalable and fastest enterprise system.

Check out these interesting facts about IBM Mainframes:

 Top 25 banks in the word use mainframe to run their businesses

 In fortune 500 companies, over 90% use mainframes

 90% of top insurance companies use mainframes to process their high volume transactions

Even with the advent of newer technologies like Java server page and active server pages, most of the business logic behind the scenes is processed by the Mainframe computers and sent back to the front end (webpage) to present it to the users.

Every generation of IBM mainframe computers have included improvements in architecture, while remaining the most stable, secure, and compatible of all computing platforms.

Thousands of terminals (users) can interact with single mainframe on real time doing different tasks such as querying data, submitting requests, processing transactions and running the batch jobs and online transactions.

Mainframe system has the ability to act as an application server as well as a web server. It can serve and receive the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) requests. With the Rational Developer for System z (RDz), applications can be developed in an integrated development environment (IDE) and once the development is done, they can be uploaded to the host computer. Rational Developer for System z is an Eclipse based IDE which allows the development of applications without connecting to the mainframe.


IBM Mainframes role today

Today, businesses rely on IBM Mainframe to process large scale transactions (thousands of transactions per second), to supporting thousands of users accessing many resources, to manage terabytes of database information and to handle high band width communications.

Actually it's scary how the world would be without IBM Mainframes. The chances are you will not be able use ATM, interact with bank account, book a flight reservation, get an insurance quote if these computers are down.

Even after incredible use of personal computers, notebooks, PDAs, mobile devices and smart phones, IBM Mainframes play an important role in our society today.


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    • Sekharg profile image

      Sekharg 6 years ago from USA

      Yes, IBM (International Business Machines) is still around. IBM's revenue in 2010 is 100 Billion. Here are some quick stats:

      In 2010, IBM was ranked the 20th largest firm in the U.S. by Fortune and the 33rd largest globally by Forbes. Other rankings that year include #1 green company (Newsweek), #1 company for leaders (Fortune), #2 best global brand (Interbrand), #15 most admired company (Fortune), and #18 most innovative company (Fast Company). IBM employs almost 400,000 employees (called "IBMers" by IBM) in over 200 countries, with occupations including scientists, engineers, consultants, and sales professionals

    • profile image

      Jane 6 years ago

      Is the actual company IBM still around? With that name?