Special Report

The future of mainframe systems and the x86 platform

Editors, SearchDataCenter.com


VMware’s CEO, Paul Maritz, used the analogy of a "software mainframe" to describe his company’s cloud computing vision at VMworld Europe two years ago. The comparison raised eyebrows at the time, and has continued to resonate within the market.

Meanwhile, traditional mainframe technology isn’t holding still, by any means, and IBM envisions a cloud computing future that includes, rather than replaces, its z/OS mainframe systems. This special report explores the technical similarities and differences between traditional mainframe systems and x86 virtualization architectures in a two-part feature article, a multimedia slideshow and a series of podcasts that focus on these technologies in the context of the ongoing evolution of cloud computing.



This two-part news feature examines the technical similarities and differences between traditional mainframe systems and x86 server virtualization, and it also shows how both technologies are continuing to change. 

Traditional mainframe, meet the x86 'software mainframe'
X86 server virtualization is developing features and capabilities similar to the traditional mainframe, drawing the distributed systems and mainframe worlds closer together in the cloud. While technical differences between the two platforms still exist, it is clear that distributed systems are closing the gap on traditional mainframe technology. 

Not so fast: IBM pushes mainframe toward the cloud
As x86 platforms continue to improve and vie for a bigger piece of the market share, traditional mainframe systems are evolving as well. With the release of its zEnterprise 196 last summer, IBM is moving its vision for mainframe systems forward with cloud technologies and looking to incorporate x86 server compatibility. 


This slideshow examines why traditional mainframe systems are still much more powerful than x86 virtualization options, and it also reveals why similarities between the two may soon outweigh the differences.

Traditional mainframe systems vs. x86 'software mainframe'
X86 server virtualization is developing features similar to traditional mainframe systems, and while the two are drawing closer together, traditional mainframe systems are still much more powerful than virtualized distributed systems clusters. The real question is: Will the two eventually converge? 


In this podcast series, two industry experts offer their opinions on the current state of traditional mainframe systems compared to x86 virtualization platforms, and they also share their thoughts on the future of mainframe technology. 

Is the software mainframe metaphor apt, or off?
How accurate was Maritz's description of vSphere as a "software mainframe?" Does it lead customers to expect too much too soon, or does it emphasize the potential that x86 platforms could reach in five to 10 years? In this podcast, two industry experts weigh-in on the "software mainframe" metaphor and discuss whether it was a fair comparison.

The 'lumpy cloud' of the future
What will the future of mainframe systems look like? What does the future of cloud computing hold for traditional mainframe systems, and are x86 scale-out systems the way of the future? In this podcast, two industry experts discuss their vision of the mainframe future, and they also discuss why they see a "lumpy cloud" on the horizon.

Traditional mainframe vs. x86: Cautionary statements on the future
Predicting the future of mainframe systems is incredibly difficult, and it relies on assumptions about developing technologies. Many factors, such as how IBM will advance its own virtualization products, could potentially alter the future landscape of mainframe systems. In this podcast, two industry experts acknowledge potential issues that could challenge their predictions on the future of the mainframe.

This was first published in May 2011

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