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The Eternal Mainframe 225

theodp writes "In his latest essay, Rudolf Winestock argues that the movement to replace the mainframe has re-invented the mainframe, as well as the reason why people wanted to get rid of mainframes in the first place. 'The modern server farm looks like those first computer rooms,' Winestock writes. '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.' And with terabytes of data sitting in servers begging to be monetized by business and scrutinized by government, Winestock warns that the New Boss is worse than the Old Boss. So, what does this mean for the future of fully functional, general purpose, standalone computers? 'Offline computer use frustrates the march of progress,' says Winestock. 'If offline use becomes uncommon, then the great and the good will ask: "What are [you] hiding? Are you making kiddie porn? Laundering money? Spreading hate? Do you want the terrorists to win?"'"
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The Eternal Mainframe

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  • Re:Deep (Score:5, Informative)

    by tarpitcod ( 822436 ) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @08:54AM (#43508935)

    Right and there are some big differences:

    Mainframe CPU's tend to have far more error detection and correction. They have safeguards against errors in data shuffling and computation inside the CPU itself. Mainframes tend to offer robust job control, by the time you add decent job control of the level that mainframes offer your network of workstations/servers starts getting complicated
    Mainframes tend to offer decent encryption and security.

    Can you do all these things on a pile of VM's? Sure. Is it cheaper - maybe. Is it fun to manage - not particularly.

    For the point about giving everyone access to all your stuff? Let's see the author prove his point by posting all his personal details, address age, credit card numbers, ssn, medical records, tax returns and let's see how that works out for them..

  • by div_2n ( 525075 ) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @09:17AM (#43509005)

    I suppose if you stand back from about 3 miles and never bother to understand the underlying architcture and how it scales while ignoring the flexibility of server farms as opposed to very much a box that mainframes put you in (with very minor flexibility) then yeah -- they're exactly the same.

    It's easy to draw parallels between general functionality, but you have to reduce it to "a series of tubes" type descriptions to get there.

  • by mikael ( 484 ) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @11:39AM (#43509661)

    And if you know where to look, you can find the whole collection of magazines scanned and available online (
    The best issues where when they had geek cartoons or photographs of real hardware on the front cover. The real change was when everything went all pastel shaded with the little bod characters in suits. I guess that coincided with the shift from hardware projects to software API programming on personal computers.

  • Re:Idiot (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 21, 2013 @01:13PM (#43510327)

    Have you read TFA? He's not advocating going back to the mainframe-terminal paradigma. He's warning against what is commonly perceived as the way things will inevitably go. If you're seen as "out of the norm", you're ostracized. This is reality. You don't do what everything does - and is recognized as "good" because that's what everybody does - you're "stranger danger". And in this day and age, being "stranger danger" may be a death sentence.

Receiving a million dollars tax free will make you feel better than being flat broke and having a stomach ache. -- Dolph Sharp, "I'm O.K., You're Not So Hot"