The 50th anniversary of the IBM mainframe’s introduction was celebrated on April 8, 2014 in an event that was viewed either in person or via live streaming by more than 4,000 attendees worldwide. While there was certainly some reminiscing of the vast accomplishments of the mainframe over the past 50 years, significant time was also spent looking into the future. Enterprise Executive visited with Deon Newman, vice president of IBM System z marketing, shortly after the event to gain his perspective on the first 50 years and the extraordinary future of the mainframe.

EE: The last 50 years have seen a long history of evolution for the mainframe. Could you reminisce a little and provide a brief description of what has taken place?

Deon Newman: Yes, of course. The mainframe is a story of constant evolution and transformation, its capabilities built with and for our clients. In a nutshell, on April 7, 1964, we introduced the IBM System/360 mainframe with several models from which to choose. A little more than six years later on June 30, 1970, we introduced the IBM System/370, which offered increased performance and compatibility with the System/360 to ease migration. In fall 1990, we introduced the Enterprise Systems Architecture/390. Then years later, we introduced the IBM System z series mainframes and 64-bit architecture. Since then, we’ve introduced the zSeries 900, System z9, System z10, zEnterprise System z196, zEnterprise System z114, zEnterprise System zEC12 and zEnterprise System zBC12, and the zEnterprise System zBC12 Enterprise Linux Server. 

It’s also important to note that great strides have also been made in the past 50 years in the mainframe operating systems, networking communications, channel speeds and numerous other areas. We’re celebrating all mainframe and mainframe-related accomplishments that have taken place during the past 50 years.

EE: Steve Mills made several points during his presentation, the first being that the mainframe continues to deliver value in its ability to maximize the use of its resources to process workloads at close to 100 percent of computing capacity. The second point was how the early use of the mainframe has been carried forward by IT professionals for 50 years. Can you expand on these points?  

Newman: It has always been important to design machines that could be run at high utilization and efficiency—90 percent or more—for long periods of time, provide security and deliver maximum reliability. The ability to process workloads at this level of efficiency continues to be important today and will be for the foreseeable future.

In the early days of computers, resources were very expensive. Writing applications to process efficiently, delivering fast response time, being able to quickly seek data stored on disk and many other functions were all important for IT professionals to accomplish. IT professionals within mainframe environments continue to carry on the discipline of the past to a large degree, resulting in maximum workload processing throughput.

EE: Can you provide our readers with some perspective on the quantity of work processed by mainframes?

Newman: Yes, we all depend on mainframes every day, and they work so well we hardly know they exist. Let me give you a few examples. More than 30 billion business transactions are processed daily. Credit and debit card payments totaling $6 trillion are processed annually; Visa, for example, can process up to 47,000 transactions per second at peak on their mainframe systems, and there are 23 billon Automated Teller Machine (ATM) transactions worth more than $1.4 trillion processed annually. We recently calculated that 1.1 million CICS transactions occur on mainframes every second.

EE: That perspective certainly provides insight into the quantity of transactions and the dollar values associated with mainframe processing. However, data is growing almost exponentially. How can that much data be managed and secured? How important is the mainframe platform’s security to a company?

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