The Mainframe in 2006 (or System Z as it is now known)

Wednesday 6 December 2006

Paul Carruthers MBCS CITP, zSeries CICS Tools, IBM Software Group, Leeds


After introducing himself and giving details about his background, Paul said the object of his presentation was to dispel the myths surrounding mainframe computers.

Many people still think of them as the room sized computers of 40 years ago, with huge demands for power, cooling and armies of staff to look after them.

As Paul demonstrated, today’s mainframes are the size of a large family fridge/freezer, with much reduced power requirements but offering similar increases in MIPs as has been experienced in the server and desktop environments.

The benefits

He then went on to outline some of the key benefits, from the processing power that they bring to the traditional requirements of batch processing, requiring little or no human intervention, to real-time (on-line) processing for e-business. As the mainframe is all in one “box” the firewall, essential for today’s security requirements, is included in the same “box”.

To further illustrate that mainframes are not stuck in the past, he then went on to illustrate how they easily manage new workloads requiring Java, Linux and SOA. Multiple processors at the heart of modern mainframes can be either general purpose, or, if required IFL engines, to run specific applications (Java) or operating systems (Linux) with cost reductions for the IFL over the general purpose processor. Each mainframe will currently support up to 4 of these multiple processor ‘Books’ with the general purpose and specific engines happily co-existing within or on separate books as required.

Logical partitioning of processing power is also handled on mainframes at the hardware level as Paul demonstrated. During this part of the presentation a MCM (multi-chip module), the heart of the “book”, was passed around the audience. It had been specially sent over for Paul, by a colleague in France, with dire threats in the event of its non-return by Friday; happily it was safely returned to Paul’s care before the end of the presentation.

Security credentials

There then followed more information on the security certifications of mainframe computers Paul had mentioned earlier as well as the Green credentials, potential cost savings and University and training courses available for students and employees of the many companies still heavily dependant on mainframe computers.

During the presentation, Paul answered questions from the floor and at the end we had something of a ’scoop’ in that we were treated to 2 amusing IBM TV adverts which had never been screened outside of the USA. There then followed further questions and a very lively debate on various points from the presentation and from the attendees.

In conclusion

A very big thank you goes to Paul for the time and effort he put into the event. I was very pleased, following the closure of the meeting, to be approached by several attendees saying how much they had enjoyed the presentation, found it very informative and that they were looking forwards to future meetings.