For decades now, many in the computing industry have been sounding the death knell of the mainframe. The emergence of cloud computing has been seen as a reason that mainframes won't survive much further into the 21st century. But just like email hasn't spelt the death of snail mail, cloud computing most certainly hasn't meant the death of the mainframe. Terminal emulation software continues to be made in order to access mainframes from modern computers. And so, in this article, we look at six reasons why the mainframe is here to stay.
1. Not necessarily opposed
The most important thing to point out is that the mainframe and cloud computing aren't necessarily opposed. In fact, they share a great deal of similarities. Both are implementations of a client-server model where applications are stored and run on remote servers and where user data is stored at a remote location. Essentially, both maintain a strong focus on the power of a centralized device, with less emphasis on power at the user's device.
2. Raw power
The mainframe's ability to host multiple operating systems and run major software packages is still one of its most critical advantages. Take, for example, the IBM z990. It can virtualize literally hundreds of software applications simultaneously, and is capable of handling over 13 billion transactions daily.
3. Higher security
In a world where hackers are capable of breaking in and stealing information from large corporations and governments, security of data is a key issue. Mainframes have security characteristics that the distributed architecture of cloud computing cannot offer, providing organisations that rely on mainframes with peace of mind. Take the IBM z9, for example, which stores its master encryption keys in anti-tamper packages that prevent intruders from capturing data. Mainframes also allow different partitions to be segregated, allowing background functions -- such as the backing up of data -- to take place without the performance of other apps being negatively impacted.
When it comes to reliability, mainframes are still the benchmark, due largely to the power and security issues described above. It follows that they are crucial for larger enterprises that cannot afford periods of downtime. These are known as "mission-critical systems" where periods of downtime can result in costs that run into many millions of dollars. The majority of Fortune 500 companies still rely on mainframe technology to store mission-critical data.
5. Investment in the future
While many have pointed out the ageing nature of the mainframe workforce, highlighting it as a reason that mainframes may not survive long into the future, major mainframe players such as IBM, which still recognise the value of the mainframe, have invested heavily in training young mainframers. This will help ensure that IT workers remain appropriately skilled as mainframes enter a future where traditional terminals are replaced with terminal emulation software, such as 3270 emulation, in order to access mainframes from modern computers.