IBM celebrates 40 years of mainframe technology

Forty years ago last week, IBM announced the System/360, the mainframe which many consider to be the biggest business bet of all time.

The bet paid off, with the System/360 sparking a revolution in computing and business, and author James Collins ranking it as one of the top three business accomplishments of all time, along with the Ford Model T and Boeing 707 jet.

Today, the mainframe continues to be a technology leader in the marketplace. Many of the technological breakthroughs born on the System/360 -- compatibility, transaction processing, micro-circuitry and databases -- remain fundamental building blocks of computing.

In 1964, IBM invested more than US$5 (!U$7)billion in the System/360, a figure which translates to US$30 (AU$43) billion in today's terms. In an initiative believed to be the largest privately financed commercial project ever undertaken, IBM hired more than 60,000 new employees and opened five major new plants.

Mark Harris, IBM South Africa's country GM, says the System/360 revolution was built on a simple, yet powerful concept: a single system with upward/downward compatibility, virtually unlimited storage, and instant retrieval capabilities that provided up-to-the-minute decision-making information. "Forty years later, this legacy continues unchallenged," he points out.

"In many ways, the System/360 sparked the PC boom of the 80s and the growth of the Internet. It also facilitated dramatic economic growth and prosperity by marrying business and technology," he adds.

According to Harris, customers continue to turn to mainframe technology to simplify their ICT infrastructures and to reduce the overall costs of computing.

"We are celebrating the anniversary of the System/360 by introducing IBM's newest mainframe, the eServer zSeries 890 server, which delivers some of the highest levels of flexibility, virtualization, automation, security and scalability available in enterprise-class computing," Harris says.

"The z890 allows mid-size enterprise customers to leverage some of the most sophisticated mainframe technology that IBM has to offer, while simultaneously delivering a favorable total cost of ownership."

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