Big iron, as the hacker's dictionary the Jargon File defines it, "refers to large, expensive, ultra-fast computers. It is used generally for number crunching supercomputers such as Crays, but can include more conventional big commercial IBM mainframes".
The term is often used in reference to IBM mainframes, often when discussing their comeback/survival after the assault of lower cost Unix systems. More recently the term is also applied to powerful computer servers and computer ranches, whose steel racks naturally invoke the same association.
- This article is based in part on the Jargon File, which is in the public domain.