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It's Pi Day. Celebrate with...Mainframe Computing?

On this, the 14th day of March, allow me to wish you a very Happy Pi Day.  As we recognize that infinite geometric number, beginning with 3.14 and representing the ratio between the diameter of a circle and its circumference, it's a reminder of how things come full circle.  Just as I suffered through learning the meaning of Pi in 1984, 33 years later I am helping my 5th grade son navigate the same trials and tribulations.  And, as I was very likely listening to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album on vinyl while doing my math homework in 1984, I could just as easily be listening to that same LP that I just purchased off Amazon yesterday.  Record albums, once on the verge of extinction, are now a growing business.  And fashion trends, notoriously cyclical, keep me holding out hope for the return of parachute pants… but here I remain disappointed.

Technology is not immune to cycles either.  Case in point: Mainframe computing.  The modern mainframe was released over 50 years ago in April 1964.  The IBM 360 was capable of processing over 229,000 calculations per second, making it the backbone for many business applications.   The original mainframes were housed in room-sized metal frames and occupied 2,000 - 10,000 square feet.   Historically, mainframes have been associated with centralized (vs. distributed) computing, allowing for Time Sharing Options (TSO), which enabled many people to access the operating system concurrently while unaware that others were also using it.   For many of us, when we think of mainframe computing, we think of Mission Control at NASA - which is fair, considering mainframe computing helped put a man on the moon.

Fast forward 25 years to the 1990s – the centralized computing environment, fostered by the mainframe era is gradually being edged out in favor of the client server, brought about by the coming of age of the PC.  Rather than a shared services environment, applications migrated from minicomputers and mainframes with input/output terminals to networks of desktop computers.  IT became more distributed in favor of dedicated resources.  But, even while the mainframe stepped back into the shadows, it still played an invaluable role behind the scenes, with superior computing power, greater control for running workloads and scaling and managing vector processing.

Leap forward another 25 years and the conversation comes full circle.  Cloud and "As a Service" is, to use 80's vernacular, "rad."   In many respects, we've moved back to a centralized environment, with IT organizations adopting a hybrid cloud model to gain the efficiencies and advantages offered by both public and private cloud.  And according to an insightful article in Wired magazine, "Mainframes offer all of the components needed to run a private cloud environment: lots of memory, massive amounts of storage and the ability to virtualize handles large workloads so efficiently...many enterprises already run their business applications on a mainframe and rewriting those applications for the cloud would be incredibly complicated."  Because of this, mainframe has managed to remain the "central nervous system of major industries like finance and healthcare, which is something the public cloud has yet to achieve."

Mainframe as a Service (MFaaS) provides an opportunity for enterprises to maintain and keep pace with IT modernization of mainframes, while adapting to a more flexible and agile infrastructure—using an as-a-Service financial model and support program. ViON's MFaaS offers organizations that need to upgrade their Mainframe environment the ability to do so, while mitigating the capital outlay and allowing them to pay only for the capacity they use.  

So as we come "full circle" on this Pi Day, let's take a moment to pay our respects to the technology that helped us put a man on the moon. And while you're paying your respects to mainframe computing, take a few minutes out of your day to check out Nicholas, a young man from the Nysmith School in Herndon, Virginia who memorized the first 426 digits of Pi.  And I thought putting a man on the moon was impressive.  Happy Pi Day to you!

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