IBM Celebrates a Birthday

Will launch the z890 family of mainframes today, on the 40th anniversary of the IBM System/360

April 7, 2004

2 Min Read
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It may be the 40th anniversary of the mainframe today, but the chances of Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) sending IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)a birthday card appear pretty slim.

Wednesday, April 7, is a landmark date in computing, marking as it does the 40th birthday of the IBM System/360, which has been described as the worlds first general-purpose mainframe. To celebrate the event, IBM is holding a reception at the Computer History Museum in San Jose, Calif., later today.

But Don Whitehead, director of mainframe migration at Sun Microsystems is unimpressed by all the brouhaha. Speaking at the Afcom Data Center World Conference in Las Vegas last night, he says, “It’s happy birthday mainframe, but, boy, you might want to think about a retirement strategy because it has been around a long time.

“With all the changes in the computer industry, the mainframe is one of the things that has changed the least –- it’s amazing that you can have a computer that can be in the market for that many years.”

Whitehead acknowledged that the mainframe is a “great product” but said that the users he has spoken to are now looking for alternatives or exit strategies. These include software products that allow users to run mainframe workloads on Sun systems, he added.Undeterred, IBM is expected to celebrate the anniversary with the launch of a new z890 family of mainframes, which have a technology infrastructure similar to the high-end z990. IBM was unavailable for comment on this article (see IBM Unveils Mid-Sized Mainframe).

Things have certainly moved on a bit since April 7, 1964, when Can’t Buy Me Love topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, and Lyndon B.Johnson was in the Oval Office.

Back then, IBM Chairman Thomas J. Watson Jr. described the launch of the System/360 as the most important product announcement in the company's history.

At a press conference at the company's Poughkeepsie, N.Y., site some four decades ago, Watson said, "System/360 represents a sharp departure from concepts of the past in designing and building computers... This is the beginning of a new generation, not only of computers, but of their application in business, science, and government."

He wasn’t far wrong, was he?James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-gen Data Center Forum

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