The mainframe and PCs are dead? New developments prove us wrong!

January 15th, 2015, Published in Articles: EngineerIT


The mainframe was supposed to have disappeared off the scene long ago, so too the PC, but both are still around.  All the hype around smartphones and tablets seems to remain hype, but then I guess industry has always known that the mainframe and PC (and laptops) would be around for a long time to come.

Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president, IBM Systems

Tom Rosamilia, senior vice-president, IBM Systems

According to Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of the Enderle Group, both the mainframe and the PC offer evolutionary advantages that newer, more sophisticated species still struggle to match.

He said that one lesson we should take away from the “death of the mainframe” talk is that we often get so excited about what’s new and shiny that we forget the ecosystem and experience that surrounds what that new shiny thing is supposed to replace. We forget that, regardless of our excitement, we really, really don’t like to change. We tend to forget that “better” is relative. Finally, we have a nasty habit of getting so excited about a new technology that we ignore the fact that it fundamentally doesn’t work for us. Sun Microsystems, for example, led the vanguard of the firms declaring, “The mainframe is dead.” Well, Sun has been gone for about a decade, while the mainframe remains IBM’s most successful hardware platform from the standpoint of revenue and profit, according to Enderle.

IBM proved that point this week with the launch of z13 mainframe, said to be the most powerful and secure system ever built. It is the first system able to process 2,5-billion transactions per day, and can do real-time encryption on all mobile transactions with embedded analytics, providing real time transaction insights 17X faster than before.

The rapid growth of mobile applications has created consumers who expect mobile transactions to be fast and seamless – regardless of which mobile payment platform, retailer, or financial organisation is providing the service. As a result, businesses are being forced to evaluate whether their IT infrastructures can support mobile applications that meet and exceed these consumer expectations — or face the potential of losing clients to competing businesses. “Every time a consumer makes a purchase or hits refresh on a smart phone, it can create a cascade of events on the back end of the computing environment”, said Tom Rosamilia, senior vice- president, IBM Systems.”

The z13 transactions are persistent, protected and auditable from end-to-end, adding assurance as mobile transactions estimated to grow to 40-trillion mobile transactions per day by 2025.  It is the first mainframe system with embedded analytics providing real-time insights on all transactions. This capability can help guarantee the ability to run real-time fraud detection on 100% of business transactions by delivering “on the fly” analytic insights.

According to Rosamilia, as mobile adoption grows, consumers are driving exponentially larger numbers of mobile transactions. Each of these mobile transactions triggers a cascade of events across computing systems. These events include comparisons to past purchases, data encryption and decryption, bank-to-bank reconciliations, and customer loyalty discounts. This cascade of events causes a so-called “starburst effect” – where a single transaction can trigger as few as four or as many as 100 additional system interactions.

“Consequently, the starburst effect can create security vulnerabilities at each interaction point. In fact, 71% of CIOs and IT managers surveyed by IBM indicated that security is their most significant mobile enterprise challenge. With data and transactions under constant threat from multiple points of attack, consumers want to know that their mobile transactions are as secure as financial data held by banks.”

IBM has also unveiled a preview of new z/OS software that delivers advanced analytic and data serving capabilities.  When available, this new operating system will expand the ability of z13 to process in-memory analytics and provide analysis on mobile transactions, helping clients to further extend mainframe enterprise applications to the mobile user.

While IBM has shown that the mainframe is far from dead, the same cannot be said of Microsoft and the death of the PC. Microsoft grossly underestimated the number of PCs in use when they launched Windows 8 and stopped the distribution on XP and Windows 7.  Window 8 was not enthusiastically received as millions of PCs are still the computing back bone of many enterprises.  Windows 8.1 did not change the love for Microsoft to any extend. On 13 January 2015 Microsoft ended the free support of Windows 7. It leaves many users irritated with the company as XP users were.

For some reason there will be no Windows 9 but Microsoft  will launch Windows 10 mid-year which according to beta users has more of a Windows 7 look and feel. It appears Microsoft too have grasped the fact that the PC is not dead.

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