6 Industries Where Mainframes are Still King

Ever wonder why companies like IBM are still selling mainframes? Hint: It’s not because they’re living in the past. It’s because the mainframe is still crucial in a number of industries.

It’s telling that mainframes are important not only because some companies are still using the mainframe systems they bought years ago and have yet to decommission, but also because businesses are still investing in brand-new mainframes – such as IBM’s z13, a refrigerator-sized machine capable of processing 2.5 billion transactions per day.

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Industries Where Mainframes Still Matter

Why are companies like IBM still investing huge amounts of money developing mainframe systems? Why are businesses keeping the mainframes they have and even investing in more?

The short answer is that they remain the only type of hardware capable of efficiently handling the huge volume of transactions that are a common part of business operations in many industries today.

The long answer is that mainframes are still a crucial resource in industries like the following:

Banking

Banks of all types need to process enormous volumes of transactions. Investment banks prioritize high-frequency trading and need to react instantaneously to changes in financial markets. Plain-old retail banking, which revolves around credit card transactions, ATM withdrawals, and online account updates, means banks of all types need to process enormous volumes of transactions. In both contexts, mainframes allow banks to process data on a scale that commodity servers can’t handle.

Related customer story: Global Financial Firm Controls Costs on IT Operations

Insurance

Insurance companies live and die on data – a lot of it. Data helps them assess risk, set prices and invest in the right markets. Insurers depend on mainframes to make sure they can handle the data that drives their business.

Related customer story: IT Operational Efficiency Achieved by Major Insurance Provider

Healthcare

Healthcare, too, is an industry where data is now king – and so, by extension, are mainframes. Mainframes power the secure, compliant, high-volume and highly available data storage and transactions that make modern healthcare tick.

Related customer story: Client-focused Company Meets Compliance Rules and More

Government

From the IRS to the National Weather Service, government agencies of all types need to store and analyze huge amounts of data. Mainframes are still helping them to do it.

Related customer story: Solving IRS Pub 1075 Compliance Issues and Recovering $

Aviation

You don’t need to be a pilot to know that flight networks are complicated and ever-changing. That’s why airlines – not to mention government regulators that oversee airlines and even aircraft manufacturers – rely on mainframes to help ensure that people and planes arrive where they are supposed to in the most efficient way possible.

Retail

Traditional retailers have long used the mainframe to help process transactions and keep track of inventories. But it’s not only old brick-and-mortar stores that can make use of these machines. Online retailers, too, can benefit from the ability of modern mainframe systems to handle enormous volumes of transactions.

Related: Big Data Industries: 5 Industries Being Reshaped by Data Analytics

Mainframes Rule: 6 Industries Where the Mainframes is Still King

Conclusions

The folks who have predicted the demise of the mainframe have turned out to be wrong time and again, and there’s no sign that they’ll be right anytime soon. Mainframes remain a core part of the IT infrastructure used by companies that span a diverse set of industries.

Download Syncsort’s  2018 State of the Mainframe survey report to see the 5 key trends to watch for in 2018.

Christopher Tozzi

Authored by Christopher Tozzi

Christopher Tozzi has written about emerging technologies for a decade. His latest book, For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution, is forthcoming with MIT Press in July 2017.

9 comments
  1. Having been a proud mainframer since 1973 (1968 including college), I am constantly amazed that people continue to predict its death. I laughed at those people in the ’80s when the first “death knells” started. I remember saying to colleagues that it will outlive us all. I’m currently 66, and still believe that I will not see the death of the mainframe in my lifetime.

    1. Michael Kornspan
      Michael Kornspan July 1, 2017 at 3:15 pm

      We feel the same way! Happily, predictions of death have wained and been replaced by discussion of what it continues to do the best AND it’s evolving role as a critical hub in modern data architectures.

  2. When the smoke clears, and its all said and done, it will be the Mainframe and the roaches that will remain…… anonymous

  3. mainframetruth July 6, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    All lovely sentiments in this article- problem is that there are tremendous onerous barriers to entry for anyone seriously considering a mainframe for a proof of concept. The zPDT is only available at a ridiculous high cost and under tremendously restrictive licensing and operating conditions. If you want to try to do anything serious with zTPF, zVM, or zOS to explore something- once again, onerous licensing and operating conditions under normally available programs and processes. With no entry level mainframe option that operates on 110V power, yet another barrier to entry. IBM seems completely unserious about new workloads and applications, and really only cares about platform retention in existing organizations.

  4. In reality “the death of the mainframe” comes from ignorance of the platform (most of the leadership in IT comes from learning MS and a little Unix skills from universities nowadays and are on fast track for promotions), bias, hatred for the platform (wish it was dead), remarks like “yak, green screens”, etc. I told a Linux Admin that I installed SUSE Linux on the mainframe using a VNC terminal and a GUI to YAST…he looked at me with awe. I started with the mainframe in 86 and have seen pundits predict and write its eulogy many times (not happened, yet as it stands to be the most powerful (architecturally) designed platform as of yet. I agree with you Art, it will outlive us all. Not speaking in the Mainframes favor (I am a technologist) as I adapt and use other computing platforms too and there is a lot of good technology out there but no one comes close to the computing power of this Big Iron.

  5. Current website of “EnterpriseSystemsMedia.com” contains this quote:
    “according to a recent article in Information Week, the mainframe is now used by more companies than you might think: “Mainframes are in use in 90% of the Fortune 1000 and a large percentage of midmarket companies, according to IBM and the Computer & Communications Industry Association. About 70% of mainframe users among our poll respondents have expanded their deployments over the past year, despite the economy.”

  6. Current website of “EnterpriseSystemsMedia.com” contains this quote:
    “according to a recent article in Information Week, the mainframe is now used by more companies than you might think: “Mainframes are in use in 90% of the Fortune 1000 and a large percentage of midmarket companies, according to IBM and the Computer & Communications Industry Association. About 70% of mainframe users among our poll respondents have expanded their deployments over the past year, despite the economy.”

  7. Still Alive and Kicking.
    July 20th, 1969, 48 years ago, 3 lucky guys were on a journey to be the first humans to land on the moon. Apollos 8 and 13 astronauts Jim Lovell; Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins were those three lucky guys. As the world watched, Neil Armstrong and Aldrin landed in the moon’s Sea of Tranquility aboard the lunar module Eagle. Meanwhile, crewmate Collins orbited above in the command module Columbia.

    This incredible event made me think of the years of preparation, training and skills development and refinement that went into making that mission a success. What is the connection between the mainframe and the moon landing? The IMS for the mainframe was developed in 1969 by IBM for the Apollo 11, the spaceflight that landed the first humans on the Moon, Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969, 02:56 UTC.

    The mainframe turned 50 on Apr 7, 2014, and it’s alive and well and still powers the global economy. Mainframes need IT, professionals, to help humankind with its next “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” moment.

    Ron Fresquez is CEO of zSkills Corp. He can be reached at Ron@zskillscorp.com.

    IBM Destination z Magazine ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬
    To the Moon and Beyond: Continuing Mainframe Innovation
    See more at http://www.destinationz.org/Community/Evangelizing-Mainframe/September-2015/To-the-Moon-and-Beyond–Continuing-Mainframe-Innov
    September 22, 2015, | Valerie Dennis | Managing Editor | IBM Systems Magazine, Mainframe edition –

  8. […] companies and governments still rely on mainframes for transactional processing (IBM’s z13 can process 2.5 billion transactions per day), and the company found its niche with data integration […]

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