On Tuesday, IBM unveiled the most recent incarnation of the often maligned Mainframe. As has come to be expected, the new machine, dubbed the zEnterprise EC12, includes many technological advances and offers potentially substantial performance improvements. However, this analyst suggests that it is more significant to focus on how the EC12 embodies and illustrates IBM’s ongoing, increasingly Cloud-oriented strategy.

Since the introduction of the System/360 in 1964, the death of the Mainframe has been forecasted by industry pundits for reasons ranging from Mini-Computers in the ‘70s, through Client-Server in the ‘90s, to most recently, Cloud IT. However, maintaining a clear focus on the customer investment in the vast numbers of applications and workloads running on mainframes, IBM has steadfastly evolved the technological and functional attributes of the venerable architecture. From its beginnings as a general purpose platform for all workloads, the mainframe, with the addition of native TCP/IP adapters, became a database and transaction server. With the transition from ECL technology to CMOS microprocessors, the mainframe was able to reap the same technological advances as Intel and RISC machines. Implementation of Linux enabled the mainframe to embrace new “non-mainframe” workloads and provide the same levels of reliability, management, and security that native mainframe workloads have enjoyed for decades.

The EC12 represents the next step in this ongoing evolution and includes enhancements specifically aimed at the most recent types of workloads – analytics and big data. Further, IBM is targeting the EC12’s capabilities to simultaneously manage thousands of virtualized workloads at the rapidly growing trend in Enterprise computing infrastructure – Cloud IT. In short, the EC12 demonstrates IBM’s overall strategy which Saugatuck characterizes as: Deliver “Enterprise-class” functionality and services to support the ongoing evolution of workloads while maintaining compatibility for legacy workloads.

During the early 1990s, most enterprises were asking “How can we get off the mainframe?” Today Saugatuck suggests the question enterprises should be asking is “In the evolution to Cloud IT, which computing architecture – including the mainframe – has the attributes to best satisfy the requirements of each current and future workload?”

This blog originally appeared at Saugatuck Lens360.