the much predicted demise of mainframes, these 'Big Iron'
number crunchers still form the central IS platform in many
organizations. by M Ganesh
can compare with mainframes when it comes to reliability,
availability, security and data integrity
the stalwarts that shaped information technology in the last
era are making a slow but steady comeback. They enable users
to perform functions that would otherwise be difficult (or
impossible) on other type of servers.
are many recent examples of organizations using mainframes
as a part of their IT infrastructure to boost productivity.
Borders Group used mainframes to consolidate its two human
resource systems that managed payroll, personnel and benefits
information for its 40,000 employees. When Motorola implemented
SAP R/3 for almost 30,000 users worldwide, mainframes enabled
its users to automatically share workload in a continuous
computing environment. Nabisco, the cookie giant, had the
database server component of SAP R/3 implemented on mainframes
as its manageability, availability and scalability could ensure
a quick turnaround in the global order management functions.
Doomsayers have repeatedly touted the irrelevance and demise
of mainframes in this era especially with the whole gamut
of current and alternative technologies that are transforming
the landscape of
the new economy. But in the midst of this technological upheaval,
mainframes present a strong base for Internet technology to
of the mainframe
Through the years, mainframes were where the corporate business
data resided. Their relevance still holds true because of
their great ability to support data loads generated by the
flurry of Internet activityPCs, thin clients, mobile
personal data assistants, Internet appliances run by HTML
browsers over Unix and Windows serversthat could amount
to billions of transactions per week.
Looking at various industry tests and analyst commentaries,
nothing can compare with mainframes when it comes to reliability,
availability, security and data integrity. Also, they provide
immense I/O bandwidth, memory and disk space. As a whole,
the total cost of ownership (TCO) of owning a mainframe is
less, thereby making it lower than the TCO of many physical
Clearly, today's Internet economy is being built on the basis
that everything changes. It's about keeping an open mind to
new technologies, media, users, and trying to bring these
together to create new business opportunities.
Often, organizations have to juggle with perpetual dilemmas
Managing the explosion of transactions and associated costs
Providing fast response and continuous service to customers
Ensuring transaction security with superlative performance
Deciding on the right number of servers and integrating
all these into existing TCP/IP networks
Flexibility in deploying new applications rapidly
Recognizing the need to move and evolve, many vendors are
trying to integrate the mainframe's renowned reliability and
availability features and management capabilities into their
servers. However, despite constant efforts to take over the
mainframe's traditional role and handle many of the large
business computing tasks, these servers are still not able
to match the mainframe's 99.999 percent level of availability
covering both planned and unplanned outages.
Mainframes have the flexibility to run a growing, changeable
set of applications on a shared set of physical resources
while maintaining security and performance. When business
demands change, the organization can dynamically reconfigure
systems and add resources without disruption.
Many companies are suddenly finding themselves managing huge
server farms in an attempt to meet growing, unpredictable
user demands. Consolidating that work onto fewer physical
servers allows companies to deliver greater responsiveness
while cutting system management costs.
With mainframes, an organization can run multiple workloads
and function in numerous ways. If another virtual server is
needed, it can be added in seconds.
This is made possible by multiple systems running as independent
virtual servers in separate partitions.
Virtual machines can share processors, network, I/O paths,
printers, disks and tape systems.
The ideal mainframe should be able to embrace open standards
and open sources with legacy technologies thus giving various
flexible application deployment choices. This flexibility
is extended when numerous capabilities are designed into hardware
and software configuration that allow errors to be avoided,
detected, isolated and corrected.
In every e-business transaction, it is always a challenge
to provide utmost security across public networks while providing
consistent high-performance. Mainframes should be able to
integrate hardware and software to give confidentiality, authentication
and access control while embracing various industry standards.
Mainframes provide industry-leading levels of scalability,
availability and security for extensive e-business and enterprise
computing needs. In this Internet era, mainframes play a pivotal
Designing and developing essential applications for enterprise
Providing a highly secure, scalable, comprehensive, diverse
and high-performance base for Internet and Java-enabled
Mainframes have the flexibility to manage numerous operating
systems on a single server. Whether it is retaining, upgrading
or implementing mainframe systems, the unanimous view is that
mainframes will continue to be a central IS platform in any
organizations' IT agenda.
It is still the tried and trusted machine to handle huge loads
of data and information. This is especially
important when data availability is so central in determining
success or failure in the new economy.
Mainframes still prevail simply because they deliver all that
Internet computing needshigh levels of availability,
reliability, security, data integrity and sheer raw processing
power. The function still remainsit's just a different
setting, that's all.
Ganesh is Country Manager, Enterprise Systems Group, IBM India
Ltd and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views in
the article are the authors own.