Organic Dinosaurs were huge creatures that dominated earth life for over 160 million years, from about 230 million years ago until about 65 million years ago. Many scientists believe that a huge asteroid striking the earth caused the extinction of the dinosaur species. But some survived and evolved into new species such as birds.
Likewise, Mainframe Dinosaurs were huge machines that dominated earth information processing systems for about three decades, from the 1950’s until the early 1980’s. Many users believe that the deployment of PCs and other smaller platforms for business use caused the extinction of the mainframe dinosaur species. But some survived and evolved into a new species now known as the IBM System z.
So let’s gain a greater understanding of this Mainframe Dinosaur evolution that has been going on for the past four decades. Of course the modern IBM mainframe era began with the System/360 delivered in 1964. Once that live birth occurred, and other companies entered the computer market, it was a foregone conclusion that natural selection would take over and evolution would begin.
And the beginning of that Mainframe Dinosaur evolution took place in the 1960s and 1970s. That is when quite a bit of dinosaur mating (mergers) occurred prompting the earliest mainframe computers to begin the long journey that transformed them into the titanic information crunchers that are today’s IBM System z processors.
The major players during the Cretaceous Era of Organic Dinosaurs were T. Rex, Giganotosaurus and Allosaurus among others. All of these were very efficient and effective at what they did best – crunching anything that came their way.
Similarly, the main players in the computer industry during the 1960s were IBM and the Seven Dwarves – the dwarves being Burroughs, Control Data, General Electric, Honeywell, NCR, RCA, and Univac. But after the loss of GE and RCA the Seven Dwarves metamorphosed into the BUNCH (Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data, and Honeywell). Further mating and extinctions left that landscape unrecognizable and now only IBM stands as the guardian of the original “Big Iron” computer processing species.
It is simply amazing that the Big Iron evolution has created such a highly efficient and effective information predator and that it can handle just about anything that comes its way – even creatures like UNIX and Linux – while at the same time maintaining harmony within its environment which is the "Green" datacenter. At the end of a long evolutionary chain, IBM's System z now stands head and shoulders above all other species in its ability to crunch data while remaining highly available, scalable, serviceable and friendly to its own environment.
Of course there are other smaller species of mainframe wanna-be’s such as HP’s NonStop server (originally Tandem NonStop); Fujitsu Siemens® BS2000 running OSD; Fujitsu® Trimetra NOVA running Open/VME (originally ICL VME); Bull NovaScale 9000 Series running GCOS 8; and Unisys ClearPath running MCP (originally Burroughs) and OS220 (originally Univac-Sperry). But even though still supported, these are legacy systems much like IBM’s zSeries species that is a direct ancestor for IBM’s System z – today’s supreme Big Iron mainframe processing system.
And, as you know, even lesser species still abound such as Intel and Sparc platforms but, although they exist in the same or similar information processing niche as System z, they have smaller appetites and less capacity for handling data processing – in particular data storage I/O processing. And some customers are using System z to eradicate most of these lesser platform species from their data centers, especially Linux open systems platforms, while taking on their workloads and thriving.
You might be surprised to know that the circumstances that System z finds itself in today are very healthy for its continued dominance in the data processing world. As attested to at Knowledge@W.P. Carey, “…about 70 percent of business data resides on mainframes and that 28 percent of IT workers are involved in mainframes is a testament to mainframe efficiency at managing large operational, transaction-oriented databases…”. For IBM this translates into dollars and sense. Antonio Sacconaghi, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein, was quoted in an October 2009 NY Times story saying, “About 25% of IBM’s $104 billion in annual revenue comes from the sale of mainframes and associated products like storage systems, software and services”. And in the January 14, 2009 issue of The Economist you will find that Mr. Sacconaghi estimates that 40% of IBM’s profits are mainframe-related.
I hope that you will agree that these indications of lots of revenue and lots of profit should signify that IBM has no reason for doing anything but growing the capabilities and functionality of its mighty System z for many years to come.