Death of the mainframe

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The "death of the mainframe" is a recurrent assertion that the mainframe computer is, or is becoming, obsolete.

In 1991 in the trade publication InfoWorld Stewart Alsop wrote

The argument was based on the rapid growth of small computers at the time, and also by consolidation in the mainframe computer market. Since that time this prediction has periodically resurfaced and been the subject of controversy.

  • In 1993 Alsop reiterated the prediction and cited Cheryl Currid, a computer industry analyst as saying that the last mainframe "will stop working on December 31, 1999,[1]" a reference to the anticipated Year 2000 problem (Y2K). Alsop invited readers to send in their own suggestions for the date.
  • By 1996 Bob Lewis could state "An ongoing debate fostered by Stewart Alsop rages over when we’ll unplug the last mainframe.[2]" Lewis' counterarguments were that the increasing complexity of personal computer software, local area networks, and the requirement for sharing files made personal computer users less independent.
  • A photograph taken in 2000 famously shows Alsop eating his words.[3]
  • In 2008 The New York Times referred to Alsop's prediction in an article about IBM's z10 mainframe introduction:

    mainframe technology — hardware, software and services — remains a large and lucrative business for I.B.M., and mainframes are still the back-office engines behind the world’s financial markets and much of global commerce.[4]

  • In 2010 an article in The Wall Street Journal said

    The death of the mainframe has been predicted for years, as companies opted to handle their heavy computing needs with strings of cheaper servers rather than pay a million dollars for one massive box....Although the mainframe has been around since 1952 and represents less than 3% of IBM's revenue, the workhorse machine continues to play an outsized role in Big Blue's results.[5]

  • In a 2013 Information Week article says

    Statements about the death of the mainframe have been made for at least a couple of decades. But IBM keeps proving that with new technology and timely facelifts aimed at the latest market demands, mainframes can stay relevant.[6]


  1. ^ Alsop, Stewart (Mar 8, 1993). "IBM still has brains to be player in client/server platforms". InfoWorld. Retrieved Dec 26, 2013. 
  2. ^ Lewis, Bob. "Are you in a mainframe state of mind?". Retrieved Dec 26, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Stewart Alsop eating his words". Computer History Museum. Retrieved Dec 26, 2013. 
  4. ^ Lohr, Steve (March 23, 2008). "Why Old Technologies Are Still Kicking". The New York Times. Retrieved Dec 25, 2013. 
  5. ^ Ante, Spencer E. (July 22, 2010). "IBM Calculates New Mainframes Into Its Future Sales Growth". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved Dec 25, 2013. 
  6. ^ Henschen, Doug. "IBM Mainframes Nipped, Tucked For Cloud Age". Information Week. Retrieved Dec 25, 2013.