Mainframes were historically core parts of business computing architecture – although they are less common than servers in modern data centres – and are targeted at performing large scale critical application or data processing. Mainframes are characterised by their: high reliability due to redundant internal engineering, strict backwards compatibility of older software, significant Input/Output capabilities and support for hot-swapping memory and processors. Reliability, Availability and Serviceability or RAS is a key design feature of mainframes, they are designed to run for very long periods of time – sometimes decades – continuously as they tend to run critical applications where downtime could be catastrophic to the business.
Technipages Explains Mainframe
Mainframe originally referred to the large cabinet that housed the CPU and memory of early computers, the term eventually evolved to distinguish high-end commercial-grade machines from less powerful computers, before being used to refer to only the extremely high reliability and high-performance machines that mainframe means today.
Mainframes differ from supercomputers in the type of workload they process, supercomputers focus on raw calculation speed to crunch numbers and data for what tends to be scientific and engineering purposes. Mainframes tend to also be high performance but focus on transactional rather than computational performance, an example transaction would be entering a new row into a database. The Mainframe is designed to perform transactional tasks at very large scales with very high reliability running mission-critical applications and software for companies where even minutes of downtime could cost millions and cause loss of reputation.
Modern mainframes include a fault tolerance system that sees two processors execute the same workload, compare the two results to verify they are correct or resolve which result is correct, and then shift processing load away from processors that are causing errors all without impact to any operating systems or programs. This sort of fault tolerance gives mainframes very high reliability that makes them very important to companies where continuous operation without mistakes is key such as financial transaction processors.
Common Uses of Mainframe
- NASA installed a new mainframe last week.
- The mainframe is a highly reliable and specialised type of server.
- The hardware update on the mainframe was completed successfully.
Common Misuses of Mainframe
- A mainframe is purely a housing for the rest of a server.