The Mainframe Computer: Can’t Kill It

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IBM's new zEnterprise EC12 mainframe computer

John Markoff¬†Steve Lohr of the New York Times has a good piece on an interesting product that you and I won’t be buying: IBM’s new mainframe computer, which Big Blue announced today. The story explains why these ginormous multi-million-dollar machines are still thriving, long after lots of smart folks thought they’d be rendered obsolete by more distributed approaches to computing.

Back in the early 1990s, a former boss of mine,¬†Stewart Alsop, famously predicted that the last mainframe would be unplugged on March 15, 1996. When that date came along and plenty of mainframes were still chugging along, he revised his prediction to say that he wouldn’t see the last mainframe in his lifetime. Now it seems entirely plausible that mainframes will outlive all of us — and might be around even after the PC as we’ve known it for the past few decades has evolved into something new and unrecognizable.