The Eternal Mainframe

Rudolf Winestock observes that the huge server farms that make up the “cloud” are nothing more or less than re-incarnations of the mainframe datacenter with the iPads and Androids serving as thin clients.

The result is that the modern server farm looks like those first computer rooms. Row after row of metal frames (excuse me—racks) bearing computer modules in a room that’s packed with cables and extra ventilation ducts. Just like mainframes. Server farms have multiple redundant CPUs, memory, disks, and network connections. Just like mainframes. The rooms that house these server farms are typically not open even to many people in the same organization, but only to dedicated operations teams. Just like mainframes.

In short, not only do server farms physically resemble mainframes, and perform many of the same functions as mainframes; operationally, they are treated in much the same way as mainframes.

Server farms have Greenspunned mainframes.

This is the Wheel of Reincarnation in its biggest possible cycle. The movement to replace the mainframe has re-invented the mainframe.

To say nothing of continuous operation, concurrent maintenance, heterogeneous OS domains and many other features. I would have to say that the re-invented mainframe is stronger than its predecessor in terms of scalability, but notably weaker in terms of security.

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