Evangelizing Mainframe
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What’s in a Name?

The 49th anniversary of IBM’s announcement of the System/360 is less than a month away, the fateful date being April 7, 1964. And while, little is planned this year, the 2014 golden anniversary should be remarkable.

Five decades is something to crow about, especially considering we’re talking about the computer hardware business. How many IT companies and hardware products have come and gone since 1964? The mainframe has no equal, not only in terms of longevity but also innovation.

Yet, mainframers know there’s a large segment of the population who envisions a System/360 or something similar when you mention the word “mainframe.” For these folks, it seems frozen in time, and they have no idea how the mainframe has advanced and continues to lead the industry.

As a writer/editor, the challenge is how do you tout the mainframe’s impressive pedigree and staying power without perpetuating the misconception that it’s old and out-of-date? In a recent Destination z email, we referred to it as a “nearly 50-year-old platform.” One reader was annoyed that we would state its age, which, in that person’s mind, only promotes the idea that it’s an old, stogy technology.

That wasn’t our intent, but it raises a good question: How do you strike the right balance? How do you talk about the mainframe’s proud history without making it sound like it is history?

The zEnterprise EC12 boasts the fastest processor in the industry and is unmatched in the industry. At the same time, it’s built on decades of IBM know-how, proving it has an unprecedented, five-decade success story.

At a conference last year, I spoke with someone who likened the mainframe to a classic sports car. Sure, the Mustang, for example, has been around since the 1964, but it’s been updated and modernized through the years. So the 2014 model isn’t the same as the 1964 model. But unlike the mainframe, most people's perception of a Ford Mustang isn't stuck in a 1964 time warp.

If only the general public thought of the mainframe like the latest sports car. And while I don’t want to get into the platform’s various name changes over the years, maybe IBM should take a page from the auto industry and add a model year to each. So perhaps the public would better grasp the concept if it were called the new 2013 zEC12 vs. the classic 1964 System/360.

Mike Westholder is site editor of destinationz.org.

Posted: 3/12/2013 1:01:01 AM by Mike Westholder

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