With 50 years of history behind IBM’s mainframe computers, these powerful machines are here to stay. IBM has been making a continuous push to encourage industry and educational institutions to adopt this technology, and provide more educational tools and resources to teach mainframe computing.
In celebration of IBM’s Mainframe 50th Anniversary, this year’s Master the Mainframe competition was one of a kind. This was not only the first World Championship, but a record number of students participated—about 20,000 students from all over the world competed over a three-month period. Those who qualified completed all three stages of the competition; but only the top 43 contestants with the highest scores were invited to the World Championship.
50 Years Back in History
When IBM first came up with their “calculator” machines, the computers’ main parts were put in frames (what we know now as racks). Therefore, they adopted the name “mainframes.”
In 1964, IBM developed the System/360 machines. It was a $5 billion dollar investment, one that had never been seen before. IBM was pretty much “betting” on this system; which in fact revolutionized the industry. To put this number in today’s perspective, that would be an approximately $51 billion dollars of investment in IBM mainframes.
With more than 7,000 mainframe-related patents, mainframes have been widely used in many sectors ever since. Financial institutions, travel agencies, payment processing companies and the healthcare industry to mention some, have and continue to adopt this technology. One of the main reasons is because of the way these systems are designed and process instructions. They run at 100% utilization almost all the time and the architecture supports dedicated processors for the operating system, making mainframes very reliable.
Information is growing exponentially. It is estimated that 80% of existing data has been created only in the last two years; and this figure will continue to skyrocket. According to Colleen Arnold, Senior Vice President of IBM Sales and Distribution, “(…)there is 2.5 billion gigabytes of data generated daily.” Therefore, fast and reliable systems, like mainframes, are needed to analyze, deeply and in real-time, all of that data, to securely process it faster, and retain what is valuable.
Another important factor that has contributed to the growth of data is mobile technology. In 2000, only 12% of the world’s population had a mobile phone. That number has spiked, 87% of the population had a mobile phone in 2012.
For years, IBM has created partnerships with companies around the world that run their operations on IBM mainframes. Some of the companies include Citi Bank, Visa, Walmart, and First National Bank. The key to keeping these companies, and their customers happy, has been the availability and security of mainframes. Citi Bank estimates $1 million losses if their system is down for just 60 seconds. As of March 31, 2014 their Transaction Processing System (TPS) remained uninterrupted to customers, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 4,591 days. Not only was the service uninterrupted, but also it was secure. “Data protection is one of the most important things,” explained Anthony DiSanto, Managing Director, Global Head of Core Infrastructure Services at Citi Bank.
These are just a few examples of how mainframes can be utlitized in today’s world. There are many challenges ahead. Services like analytics, social, mobile, cloud and security keep evolving, and there is only one way to face those challenges: Getting involved, learning about the technology, and taking action.
Get Involved and Master the Mainframe!
Anyone can get involved and learn about these systems. The Master the Mainframe Competition has been implemented in 38 countries around the world, and students are encouraged to participate in Master the Mainframe Competition. There is no previous experience necessary; you just have to be eager to learn about mainframes and new technologies. These are the three phases of the competition:
- Basics. An introduction to mainframes and how to go about using them.
- Advanced. Learn computer languages and operating systems, and begin to develop applications.
- Industry Application: A real-world specific application is developed.
I do not know about you, but I am excited and cannot wait to participate in next year’s competition!