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R & D is alive and well on the IBM Mainframe

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On April 7th 1964, IBM released the System/360 – The Mainframe – and changed the face of business computing forever.

Today the IBM Mainframe, referred to as ‘System Z’, remains the most powerful, secure, scalable and widely concurrent business computing platform in the world. Unfortunately, it is also perhaps the most expensive and under-rated platform in the history of computing – making it invisible to many of us in the industry.

At school, we had lessons on how, once upon a time, clunky slow Mainframe computers filled room-size installations. Like ponderous dinosaurs, these prehistoric beasts went extinct, replaced by much more nimble mini-systems, which in turn gave way to the wondrous world of PCs and distributed computing. In fact you may think that today, the term Mainframe is either resigned to history or a fancy term directors occasional throw into movies to make them sound techie. The truth is however, that they form much of the foundation of our computing today.

For instance, the IBM Mainframe underpins the business critical infrastructure of 88% of the world’s top banks. If you have used an ATM today, odds are your transaction has passed through a CICS region on a Mainframe.

Many computing ‘innovations’ of the modern world that we rely on today are actually not innovative at all, the Mainframe was there first. Think VMWare pioneered virtualisation? Think again, IBM introduced it into the S/370 mainframe in 1972. In another example of foresightedness, IBM were offering mainframe-powered Service Bureaus in the 1960s – whereby computing power could be sold more along the lines of a utility so customers did not need to incur the cost of purchasing and maintaining expensive IT estates. Sound familiar?

Far from being dead, innovation has been alive and well, both within IBM and within System Z installations and ISVs. If you work with System Z, do not rule out the presence of R&D for tax purposes.

Mark , Consultant, Leyton UK