Why aren

Back in 1991, famed computer pundit

Stewart Alsop claimed that the last mainframe would be unplugged inside of 5

years. He wasn’t alone in that prediction. Many analysts and pundits looked at

the power of the mainframes back then and the rapid growth of PC-based networks

and wrote the epitaph for the mainframe. But it’s 15 years later and mainframes

are still happily humming along as if noone told them they’re not supposed to

be around anymore.

Computer’s based on the x86

architecture grow more and more powerful with each passing quarter. Just

forgetting for a second what’s in the server room, the computer that sits under

your desk is probably a lot more powerful than some mainframe computers that

were sold for millions of dollars 10 years ago.

When I was a PC Analyst for the local

county police department we had an IBM 4381 in our computer room. The county

had paid several million dollars for it on a county bond issue in the mid 80’s.

By 1991, when we moved to a new police headquarters, we had to pay someone to

come take it away for scrap. And the bond was still not paid off. The 486’s we were starting to roll out to officers

were more powerful than that machine. It seemed as if that was the way things

were going to go. Mainframe computers were the dinosaurs of the 90’s.

Yet today, they’re still around. Why?

In an age of dual and quad-core CPUs, blade servers, and the ongoing war

between Window, Linux, and Macs, why are people still paying huge bucks for


Because they work.

Well, let’s also not forget the fact

that IBM has gone out of its way to make sure that mainframes stay relevant. By

incorporating Linux virtual machines inside of mainframe systems among other

things, IBM has in effect created blade servers without the blades.

Beyond that however, mainframes are

solid and secure. They’re also designed in such a way that they’re optimized

for multiple transactions which is increasingly what blade servers and clusters

are being built for. Mainframes have already answered the question that these

new technologies are supposed to be.

IBM doesn’t break out mainframe

revenue anymore but according

to ZDNet, analysts estimate IBM takes in about $10 billion dollars from its

mainframe business. That’s hardware, software, and services together. Not to

mix apples and oranges, but Apple’s revenue last quarter was a little over $4

billion. The Mac business only made up about 55% of that. That

means that over the course of the year, IBM makes about as much money in

mainframes as Apple makes in Macs.

The mainframe is kind of like the old

man from the Monty Python And The Holy Grail “Bring Out Your Dead”

skit. As much as analysts and pundits (not to mention PC Vendors) would love

for you to toss out your mainframe, if you listen closely enough you can

probably hear it saying “But I’m not dead