IBM’s Loyalty to the Mainframe Computer About to Pay Off

IBM, the great-grandfather of today’s computer dominated world, never gave up on the idea of marketing and utilizing mainframes to power their operations, even in the 1990s when this type of computing was considered heading towards dinosaur status. Some loyal customers never gave up on IBM, such as John Addison, CEO of Primerica, a financial services company, who decided to purchase Primerica’s 19th mainframe in 30 years in 2011 from IBM.

Ten to twenty years ago mainframes seemed like more trouble than they were worth. They were oversized, consuming huge amounts of electricity, needing intense ventilation and cooling systems. The fact that they were still used at IBM was not credited to IBM’s ingenious business model, but rather to IBM’s shortsightedness.

Now however, IBM’s loyalty to the mainframe is about to pay off. Our world today is producing huge amounts of data on consumer behavior as a by-product of all the other data that is being collected. And this data can be exploited profitably if only there was a good way to access it. This situation can be compared to a huge mountain filled with gold, but no way to get it out. IBM has been developing the tools to harvest that mountain of gold. At a cost of one billion dollars in eighteen of their worldwide offices, IBM has been working on the zEnterprise to access and use all that data being accumulated.

The zEnterprise EC12 mainframe analyzes web data to predict consumer behavior, information which would be highly valuable as a product to resell to advertisers. But what really interests most businesses, from shipping centers and multinational banks to social networks and casinos is the “big data problem” involving high-speed payment transactions.

Now IBM is marketing to companies which are more and more receptive to tools for heavy computing. The mainframe is the steady, strong, workhorse for telecom, financial systems and nations thanks to its stability and excellent security features. It is also exceedingly flexible and can easily incorporate legacy applications.

All the excitement these days over mainframes is partly due to the fact that data centers are a necessity in cloud computing, and according to the projections from Forrester Research the cloud market is poised to explode in the very near future.