The IBM mainframe is turning 50 this year. This game-changing, genre-creating computing platform was introduced to the world in 1964—the same year that the Beatles and the Rolling Stones made their U.S. debut. Rock ‘n’ roll was never the same after Paul and John and Keith and Mick introduced their new music to the world, and the same is true for those visionary rock stars at IBM. The computing technology and global business world changed forever when IBM announced the IBM System/360 in April 1964.
Fifty years later, I am excited about the next decade of mainframe computing because I am excited about the speed and acceleration of businesses across the globe. The way I see it, Business growth = transaction growth + data growth + analytics growth, and the mainframe continues to grow across multiple dimensions to help businesses in almost every industry solve this equation.
The volume of data, transactions, analysis and validations that need to be processed is increasing every day—as is the requirement that this all happen quickly in a reliable, repeatable, secure, flexible and cost-efficient way. The good news is that we can have it all today because mainframes can do it all.
So why are mainframe the system of choice for thousands of organizations around the world? It's not just a matter of server space and processing speed—it's because they offer an approach to processing and managing data that lets us answer some pretty fundamental questions in a unique way.
As CEO of a global enterprise software company, I get to interact with many business and technology leaders across the globe every day that are driving the digital future. And we talk about mainframes a lot. Based on these conversations, I want to share the top five characteristics that I think will keep IBM mainframes at the forefront of the constantly changing business and technology landscape for the next decade:
- Modern Interfaces: Mainframes will continue to adapt over the next decade. One of the most exciting trends I see is the advent of new interfaces and APIs that will allow people to seamlessly use mainframes for new workloads.
- I/O architecture: While most computing platforms must add more memory in order to get acceptable I/O performance, disk usage on a mainframe can be more performance-enhancing than the use of memory in many cases. This is a testament to the strength of the I/O architecture, which was so far ahead of its time and that it is still setting the standard for managing big data, little data and data of all shapes and sizes.
- Integration: The mainframe offers the strongest capabilities for pre-integration of hardware and operating systems and powerful integration of technologies such as databases, transaction managers, workload managers and web servers.
- Uptime: In a mainframe environment, virtually anything can be added or modified without a single second of system downtime. I often hear about mainframes that haven't stopped working for a single minute over the span of many years, even as new technologies come online—web, cloud, social, mobile, big data, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and more.
- Universal applicability: Mainframes are well known as being the best system-of-record computing platform. Mainframes can also strongly participate as a more decentralized systems-of-engagement platform.
But perhaps the most important trend for the next decade has nothing to do with hardware: it's about the people who will be leveraging what mainframes do every day. Our children—millennial software engineers—who grew up in the era of mobile and social and handheld devices (and Python and Java and Ajax) are going to have a lot of career options. The companies that I see cultivating new mainframe talent are the ones maintaining their competitive advantage. The mainframe is for everyone.
Just like music, we have all seen technology trends come and go. Mainframes will continue to be the right choice and the differentiator for organizations that want to optimize their technical and business results.
Andy Youniss is CEO of Rocket Software, a global software company that has developed mainframe tools and solutions for the world’s leading businesses for 24 years.