A mainframe technology is a mainframe computer or a mainframe computer system. It is a complex and powerful system that has far more capacity than a PC or a typical server.
The first mainframes were based on tube technology and were mainly used for military purposes. With the invention of the transistor in the 1950s, the customer base expanded initially to include research institutes and later to include data centers, banks, insurance companies, authorities, and large companies.
Mainframes can fully exploit their strengths in these industries. Typical areas of application are, for example, the reliable processing of large amounts of data, such as those generated by banks and insurance companies, the processing of bulk transactions (bank transfers, ATM transfers, flight bookings, etc.) as well as the processing of company-critical data on a large scale.
The simultaneous use of many users and running applications places high demands on the operating system of a mainframe. It has to be able to distribute the computing power evenly so that every user can do their tasks without delays and waiting times.
Differentiation from supercomputers
A mainframe is not to be equated with a so-called supercomputer. Both differ fundamentally in their functions and also in their construction. Supercomputers are developed with a view to very high computing power in order to solve a complex task of a scientific or technical nature. A mainframe, on the other hand, is designed for high data throughput and high reliability.
The components of a mainframe are robust, highly redundant, and finely tuned to one another. Maintenance can therefore be carried out during operation without any impairment or interruption. This also applies to replacing hardware parts or upgrading with additional components.
Differentiation from client-server systems
Client-server systems are the predominant IT architecture in all industries today. Here, intelligent end devices ( clients ), which function autonomously, are connected to servers whose services they can fall back on for certain tasks.
With a mainframe, on the other hand, all data processing takes place centrally on the mainframe. The terminals are only used to enter data and display results, so they can be quite simple, although normal PCs are usually used for this.
Due to the client-server technology, mainframes have meanwhile lost their importance. In large companies and organizations, however, they still do their job when managing large databases or networks with a large number of connected workstations. The most important supplier on the mainframe market has been the American manufacturer IBM for decades.
Mainframes are experiencing a revival through use in online games. They handle the high data throughput, while dedicated servers provide the necessary computing power. IBM introduced such a combination for the first time in 2007, which is also known as a game frame.