Here are a few quick facts about mainframes, from the recent upsurge in mainframe training to the critical role of terminal emulation in the modern mainframe environment.

1. Despite the theory that mainframers are an ageing workforce, over 50,000 students have received mainframe training and education at hundreds of universities worldwide in the last few years. This is thanks to IBM's Academic Initiative. IBM recognized the ageing nature of the mainframer, as well as the fact young IT students are looking to other specialties, and have taken steps to combat this problem, offering no-charge access to hardware, full-version software and other training tools. It's a good thing too, when you consider that...

2. All 25 of the world's top banks still use mainframes, while 71 per cent of global Fortune 500 companies are mainframe clients as well. Additionally, nine out of the top 10 global health insurance providers process all of their high-volume transactions on a mainframe. This shows that, despite incursions being made by software as a service (SaaS) providers, an overwhelming majority of the world's big business still value the reliability and security of mainframes, particularly for mission-critical functions.

3. Recently, in the fall semester of 2011, IBM ran its seventh annual "Master the Mainframe" contest for college students across the United States and Canada. The competition is designed for students with little to no experience using mainframes. Prizes included a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, $100 pre-paid debit cards, trips to the mainframe lab in Poughkeepsie, NY, and more.

4. Around 63 per cent of mainframe sites in the Asia-Pacific region believe the lack of skills in the current generation of mainframers is a major concern. In Europe, 66 per cent of mainframe sites believe mainframes are already suffering from a serious skills shortage. Additionally, over 72 per cent of mainframe sites have employees that are eligible for retirement.

5. An IBM System z10 EC possesses capacity equal to almost 1500 x86 servers, while also boasting a footprint that is 85 per cent smaller and energy costs that are 85 per cent lower. Investment into the System z10 Business Class and Enterprise Class mainframes was over $1.5 billion, including more than 5,000 professionals around the globe and five years of development.

6. The old "dumb" terminals that were once used to access mainframes are long gone -- they became obsolete when personal computers and operating systems with graphical user interfaces shot to popularity. However, without these terminals, the mainframes cannot be accessed. As a result, terminal emulation software for modern operating systems has become a major industry, with Windows terminal emulation, Mac terminal emulation and Linux terminal emulation all available.

7. Increasingly, we can expect to see mainframes managed from mobile phones. A recent survey found that 51 per cent of organizations were open to the idea of using their smartphones to manage their mainframe. Additionally, 46 per cent said they wanted to access mainframes from their iPads. However, the biggest challenge in combining mainframes with cloud computing and social media is doing so without compromising security of the mainframe -- one of the most important features for organizations that still rely on Big Iron.