In an era of mobile apps and cloud computing, are mainframes sill relevant?
While many mainframe legacy applications from 20 to 30 years ago may be outdated, unsupported, and unable to be integrated with new and emerging technologies, there may be life in those big, powerful computers yet.
Mainframes are seen as robust and reliable, and generally do not break down, says Phillip Sargeant, research VP at Gartner. "The word mainframe seems old, but it's just another server.
"Mainframes are broadening their horizons. One of the major changes is that they now also run workloads today that they didn't five to ten years ago," Sargeant says.
Technological advances in virtualisation and increased processing power have breathed new life into mainframes. This means, for example, they can handle the massive increase in transactions due to mobile devices, says IBM business executive Rolf Stockburger.
IBM has provided the majority of the world's mainframes and Stockburger says about 70 per cent of the world's mission-critical processing systems still runs on them. NASA decommissioned its last mainframe, an IBM Z9, in February.
"The mainframe's strongest assets lie in its reliability, availability, manageability and security, and its ability to process a large amount of transactions in a very short period of time.
"Mainframe applications are built to handle these consumer-driven transaction loads and associated extremely large amounts of data – securely," says Stockburger.