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March 11, 2008

Is the Mainframe Dead?

More than 10 years ago I taught a database management course to undergraduate and graduate students at Chicago's Concordia University. I remember starting one class by asking everyone to raise their hand if they thought the mainframe was dead. Everyone did.

My response was to tell them that they spent too much time reading Oracle and SQL Server magazines. Then I educated them about z/OS and the sysplex architecture, and showed them how DB2 fits in.

For fun I recently googled the question, "is the mainframe dead"? One of the links returned by my search was this very good article that discusses the dwindling number of experienced mainframe professionals and IBM's response to the situation--a partnership with colleges and universities known as the IBM Academic Initiative.

I’m really happy that IBM is taking this step to introduce computer science students to z/OS and help prepare them to enter the U.S. workforce. Between this and the recent announcement of new System z10 enterprise class hardware, IBM obviously isn't sitting around waiting for UNIX and Windows to kill off the mainframe. These are exciting times.

Also, look at Willie Favero's Z/OS V1.10 preview and you'll see that cost is no longer a roadblock to running applications on z/OS. With XML and other workloads being moved to zIIP and zAAP processors, it's a no-brainer for IT management to move current server-based application development, including Java- and XML-based applications, to z/OS.

IBM is helping educate young programmers and developing cost-saving hardware like zIIP, zAAP and z10. The company is also implementing creative solutions to reduce software prices. Changes include usage-based pricing and, most recently, a one-time charge for IBM DB2 for z/OS Value Unit Edition.

With the new programmers, new hardware and new software pricing, hopefully you can see that the mainframe is far from dead. And it's not merely alive--it's growing.