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The Future of IT: What We Can Learn from the Mainframe

Milan Shetti

November 14, 2023

Intro: As novel and new technologies emerge, innovation alone won’t make them succeed—they must make themselves necessities woven into everyday life.

In the continuously evolving landscape of information technology, change is the only constant. Mainframes have now been around for decades and have etched their mark as the systems that laid the foundation for many technological advances.

And then came the cloud, a transformative revolution that took the IT world by storm. But cloud isn’t the only ‘newer’ technology out there: take artificial intelligence, augmented reality and edge computing. With so much new technology coming to market offering promise of greater efficiencies, productivity, and more upsides, it can be easy to be swept away by the latest shiny object.

As these technologies compete to stay around for the long run, what can they learn from the longevity of the mainframe?

Put an Emphasis on Security

In the world of rapid technological evolution, few platforms have withstood the test of time quite like mainframes. Among the core reasons for their enduring relevance is a factor that technology enthusiasts and professionals will never cease to emphasize: security. Mainframes are often hailed as the gold standard for reliability and security, boasting robust features to ensure data is secure. Their architecture, built upon decades of rigorous refinement and advancement, has robust encryption, access controls, and audit capabilities.

Mainframes remind us that while chasing the allure of the 'next big thing,' foundational principles like mainframe security must never be sidelined. Especially when you consider the cost of a data breach – in the United States the average cost is 9.48 million dollars. As we usher in a new era of IT innovations, the impact of mainframes serves as both an inspiration and a benchmark. For newer technologies to truly flourish and find their place in our interconnected world, they must first ensure they are secure in their own right, echoing the security standards set by mainframes.

Meet the Needs of Growing Industries

Despite some perceptions of the mainframe, the technology has consistently been reinvented to meet the needs of budding and established industries. Take, for example, the mainframe’s ability to connect with the cloud, that technological advancement was born due to the changing needs of several industries.

This adaptability isn't merely a feature—it's a critical lesson for emerging technologies. As innovations proliferate the market, their value isn't solely in their standalone capabilities but in their ability to mesh with the existing tech ecosystem.

For organizations to truly harness the potential of new tools and platforms, these technologies must be woven into the broader landscape of their IT infrastructure. A solution's true power often lies not just in its individual capacity but in its collaborative strength. Mainframes, in their journey of evolution, have exemplified this by integrating with the cloud, data analytics, and other cutting-edge technologies.

Become Entrenched in Society

While mainframes might evoke images of massive, old-school computers for some, they're far more intertwined with our daily lives than most realize. Whether you're withdrawing money from an ATM or booking a flight, the reliable pulse of a mainframe is often working behind the scenes. Their often unseen presence underlines the depth at which they're entrenched in societal operations.

For emerging technologies, there's a clear lesson here: lasting impact isn't just about innovation, but integration into everyday life. Technologies that weave themselves into the fabric of daily routines and essential services stand a better chance of enduring. To truly succeed and not be eclipsed, new technology must aim not just for novelty but for necessity.

Mainframes highlight the importance of adaptability and seamless integration in technology. Their consistent role in daily functions, often unnoticed, sets a benchmark for new technologies. The goal isn't just to innovate but to become integral to everyday processes. As new tools emerge, their success will be measured not just by innovation, but by their ability to become essential in everyday operations.

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