What is Mainframe Computer | Uses of Mainframe Computer

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It is sure that you’re reading this article either on a smartphone or a computer. But did you know there are other types of computers which are more powerful than the computers you use for personal purposes? Among them, the Mainframe computer is a computer that has enormous power and speed. But can you use this type of computer in your house? The answer is, No. This type of computer is generally used in all large institutions and companies as the main server computer.

The purpose of Mainframe computers is being used in many sectors because of its processing power. Do you want to know about the mainframe computers and their uses? To know all the things about a Mainframe computer, go through this whole article. By the end of this article, you will know all about the mainframe computers and their uses.

What is Mainframe Computer
What is Mainframe Computer

What Is Mainframe Computer?

in broad, the definition of mainframe computer can be described as a Mainframe Computer is a powerful computer having multiple user interfaces. Primarily ‘mainframe’ referred to the large cabinets which housed the Central Processing Unit and the main memory. Mainframes can run uninterrupted for tens of years. The term RAS (reliability, availability, serviceability) is a very important characteristic of mainframe computer since it used for application where the thing has to be done with zero downtime. It is used for millions of smaller and simpler calculations and transactions, unlike supercomputers.

The functions of Mainframe Computer

Mainframes usually serve the purpose of transferring the desired data in real-time. That’s why multinational companies buy them in the first place. Processing is not one of its fortes. But nowadays newer generation packs bit processing capability. This enables mainframes to identify a fault during a transaction in real-time. The latest technologies like cloud computing are taking the place of mainframes but to some extent, companies are being forced to buy mainframes. The reason is that mainframes specialize in high-speed data transmission. The point advanced technologies will continuously be hitting the market but the previous ones will not lose their market because of their specialty.

Apple in Need of Mainframe

Even the giant of the mobile manufacturer, Apple, is in need of mainframes. I teamed up with IBM, the top mainframe manufacturer, for its services. IBM manufactured a mainframe solely for the maintenance of mobile apps that Apple needed. Mainframes can encrypt data and transfer quite quickly.

Companies Which Manufactured Mainframes initially

Back in the days, 1950-1970 mainframes were manufactured by a bunch of companies known as “IBM and the seven dwarfs”. Some of IBM’s mainframes are IBM LinuxOne, IBM z13. Mainframes are manufactured focusing on throughput and reliability. The dominant supplier in the market for Mainframes is IBM. IBM with its mainframes caused the reduction of energy cost for cooling and also required less space. IBM’s mainframes are large computers sold by IBM in the later period of the 20th century.

A Brief History of Mainframe Computer | Development Throughout the Ages.

Mainframe Computer

Currently, the mainframes being sold by IBM are the product of enormous developments in their basic design of IBM System/360. Starting from 1952 IBM manufactured many large computers of IBM 700/7000 series up to 1960s. These computers created supremacy of IBM in EDP (Electronic Data processing). In the very beginning, IBM sold mainframes devoid of any software and operating system. The first generation of IBM mainframes used vacuum tubing while the second generation used transistors. Eventually, IBM started to provide software and Operating systems to their customer which was initially left to up to the customers to write. Currently, IBM is marketing its IBM series.

A Slight Insight Into the Architecture of Mainframe Computer

Usually referred to as Big Iron, mainframes differ in architecture from your everyday personal computers completely. Just a quick insight into its architecture, Big Iron has a whack ton of SAPs (System Assistance Processors) along with its General Purpose Processors. General Purpose Processors are much larger in size. The only purpose of SAPs is to move data around even without SAPs mainframes may have up to six hundred processing cores just to assist in input and output. Mainframes have a lot of input and output because they are designed for the purpose of high volume input and output. IBM makes its own processors for mainframes. Mainframes are really good for time-sharing so it can accommodate multiple users. It acquired an interactive interface in the latter portion of the 20th century. It can also support multiple OS (Operating System like Windows 10, Linux). Mainframes have another really important feature which is a hot-swap.

Where should you use Mainframe Computer?

Mainframes are used for various purposes where zero downtime is acceptable. It isn’t used for a complex calculation of medical research, weather forecasting. It is usually used for simple purposes where thing needs to be done really quickly. If mainframes used by retailers, banks are down in rush hours it will cause chaos. That is why many mainframe users use two mainframes one in the primary data center and the other in the backup data center thus avoiding the planned and unplanned outages.

Supercomputer Vs Mainframe computer

Supercomputer Vs Mainframe computer

Supercomputers best known for its processing capacity is used for some top-notch calculations like medical research, weather forecasting. They are used data crunching and number crunching thus having the capability to solve various scientific and engineering problems. Whereas mainframes are used basically for transaction purposes. Mainframes might need to do millions of updates to its database in a second when it is being used by retailers, airlines, banks, etc. Mainframes don’t cost thousands of dollars but millions of dollars. Bad news for the gamers out there is that mainframes can’t render floating points thus can’t be used for games.

Applications of Mainframe Computer | Popular Places Where it is used Nowadays

Mainframe computers work behind the scenes in many complicated calculations for various large companies like NASA, Walmart, etc. Ninety-six out of the top one hundred banks and twenty-three out of the twenty-five US retailers use mainframes. The name mainframe comes from its appearance, massive machines living inside large cabinets.

Mainframe in e-Business

The mainframe is a must for large-scale e-business. Many of the Fortune 500 companies use mainframes. It is almost impossible for any other computers to keep track of a large number of transactions taking place every second. Paying the bills of the employees, keeping track of the inventories from what is being sold and bought, keeping track of product those are on the road for delivery, taking orders online etc. and many other responsibilities are bestowed upon mainframes in e-business or e-commerce. Only mainframes having the capacity to get these done has become a must for large-scale e-business.

Mainframe Computer in Cloud Computing

Mainframes contribute to the management of the majority portion of corporate data. But it gets tough to maintain on-premise mainframes. Besides systems has to be maintained so that the mainframes can handle the pressure when business are at their peaks. So the organization has to have sufficient skills to operate such technology. An easy and most popular solution to such problems is cloud computing. Cloud computing provides organizations with the information and software services they need thus reducing the infrastructure costs. You might start thinking by this time, what have mainframes got anything to do with this? Yes, you got it right. Mainframes take care of the high-speed data transfer which is mandatory in this case.

Can Mainframes Take a Stand in the Era Cloud Computing?

Mainframes lack a lot of capabilities that cloud computing has to offer. Nobody wants to aspen millions of dollars just for the sake of only one certain type of work. But in the long run, this will help out a lot. For a small company having a very small amount of workload this isn’t important but a multinational company having to transfer information in real-time over countries needs this desperately.

Many new technologies are constantly coming up in the market but they couldn’t exile their ancestors in a similar way cloud computing can’t end mainframes. Smartphones couldn’t stop the sales of cameras or desktop. When MP3 came to light it didn’t finish off the record industry so cloud computing might shift some numbers in the market but it definitely can’t stop mainframes. Many mainframe manufacturers are still earning billions of revenues to date.

Mainframe in Healthcare

Mainframe in Healthcare
Mainframe in Healthcare

Mainframes are also used in health care. Uses are the same as those mentioned for e-business. Keeping track of patient’s and doctor’s schedules, test results of the patient, keeping patient confidentiality, which is a must for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, scheduling surgery for the patient. Doctors can access the test results of their patients.

Mainframe in Military

Mainframe in Military

The military started to use mainframes from the very beginning for combat purposes. Navy, Airforce, and any other armed forces use mainframes for reliable live communication between ships, planes, and any other places. Also used for combat strategies to find the best location for attacking or to take shelter in a war. Also used by border guards to keep the country’s border safe. Even in the police use mainframes for facial recognition of the criminal and also to identify criminals from DNA samples and fingerprints. Mainframes are also used for intelligence and spying effort.

Mainframe for Academic Purposes

Libraries need to keep track of their book who is taking what number of books, who has which books. The library of congress has mainframe which provides it with data from its database dating back to 1800. Public and private libraries use mainframes nowadays. Mainframes provide online information for libraries. Besides these mainframes are also used for many other academic purposes. Many universities use mainframes to keep a hold of students’ marks and other performances and degrees.

Throwbacks of Mainframe Computer

These beasts were thought to be capable of living through the ages without degrading their performance. It started to become a celebrity in the world of IT in the late 1960s. Many multinational companies, airlines, banks which were in constant need of exchanging information 24/7 bought these big irons.
The descendants of these beasts started coming to the market with an essential new feature, they could overshare over the World Wide Web.
This feature has a downside to it. A security researcher found over 400 mainframes that offered a login window to everybody. These systems had a remarkably very poor security system. Some mainframes contain the personal data of over hundreds of thousands of people.

Are Mainframes Dead or Alive? Who Uses Mainframe Computers

Many revolutionary technologies are hitting the market day by day even if they are less efficient. The main reason behind this scenario is that buying a mainframe is quite costly. And maintaining one of these over the years is quite the financial consumption. Nowadays coders are not feeling interested to work with CICS or RPG they are thinking about dominating the world with python, java and many other things that are on the hype today. Cloud computing packs lot of tricks that mainframes monopolized on.

One of the many reasons why mainframe computers are not on the verge of extinction is that many companies have been using it for decades and transferring to some other system will cost a fortune and many essential data as well.
Then again there is the fact that it has a very amazing speed enabling the users to save a square foot.

Companies Using Mainframes Vs Companies Not Using Mainframes

99% of the companies relying on mainframes have an increased average income with respect to the expense due to IT infrastructure. These companies pocketed 35% more income for not using your average everyday commodity servers. There is a feature that adds up to the reason for the survival of mainframes.

Mainframes at its Limit

Companies using Mainframes are quite aware that there is a limit to how much data mainframes can handle. At the beginning mainframes get the job done but when piles of data keep on soaring mainframes have a hard time handling them. This is one of the very important limiting factors for mainframes.

Mainframes and Their Processing Capabilities

Even though mainframes weren’t built for the purpose of processing data but due to the virtue of IBM it has started coming to the market with a higher processing capability than the previous generations. This enables mainframes to communicate information over the internet. And companies can detect fraud in real-time.

There isn’t Anything New About Mainframes

Coders feel comfortable using java for rewriting the existing applications. But rarely anything new is coming up in the world of mainframes. It’s the same thing running in a loop. This has caused a downfall in the market for mainframes. Many technologies are coming up which can do the work of mainframes to some extent. Only those organizations which are in dire need of mainframes are buying these.

Machine Learning in Mainframes

IBM mainframes have a built-in mainframes OS and they are thinking about adding the feature of machine learning to it. For better and faster analytical performance. Recently many data-driven decisions are being made by corporate sectors every now and then but due to the very slow processing capabilities of mainframes, this has become close to impossible. So machine learning is the go-to thing for mainframe technologies at the moment. The mainframe is a part of billions of transactions every day. So it is not the economic decision for mainframes users to make. That is where machine learning comes to play.

The position of Mainframe in the Near Future

Due to the arrival of some state of the art computing architectures, some researchers have been predicting the demise of mainframe technologies. While these techs took a toll on the market share of mainframe technology but many IT-based organizations couldn’t dare to unplug mainframes. Mainframes are a part of a large number of transactions every day. With billions of lines of code, the mainframe is a part of billions of transactions every day. The mainframe is used by half of the banks around the world this makes mainframes a part of 1.5 billion transactions every day at least.  Even the presence of mainframe loyalists is at stake with the appearance of cloud computing.


Many people out there think that mainframes are relics of a bygone era. But it works behind the scenes in our everyday life providing us with reliable information, keeping us safe. It has a long history of how it developed throughout the ages.

The functions of mainframes might not be that many but its application is vast. This might be the reason why its position in the future might be at stake. Machine Learning for mainframes might be able to make it last a bit longer.

Many don’t even know if mainframes are still dead or alive. There is still a question can mainframes take a stand in the era of cloud computing? There are companies using mainframes and there are those not using mainframes. There is a limit to the mainframe, how much it can process. The processing capability of the mainframe is constantly being questioned.

Many people out there might be wondering, where should I use the mainframe computer?. Well, there are endless regions where you will have no other choice but to use mainframes. NASA, Walmart are among some of the popular organizations using mainframes. Even Apple is also using mainframes.

It is keeping track of the criminals around the world, making it a better place by helping the military of various countries. Keeping track of transactions of multimillion-dollar e-Business. It is even assisting the healthcare facilities thus reducing the difficulties of both patients and doctors.

Its assistance in academic purpose is also quite appreciable, it’s helping out the research teams working of mainframe computer in a long global distance by cloud computing. It is wrong to compare mainframe computers with supercomputers. Both of them are manufactured for completely different purposes.

Its internal architecture is a state of the art. IBM is currently the top manufacturer of mainframes. Many believe that something more advanced will come and end the era of the mainframe.

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