The IBM Mainframe: A Closed & Difficult To Commission Platform?

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All too often in life we are led to believe that some things are just too difficult to achieve.  Sometimes we believe them, but hopefully, more often than not, the human spirit wins and we try to achieve the allegedly impossible.  Some might call it reverse psychology; I learned this myself as a 17 year old, having a serious leg injury having been knocked off my motor cycle, where the surgeon said “you will never walk without a limp or play sport again”.  Luckily, I thought differently and worked very hard to prove the surgeon wrong.  The surgeon wasn’t wrong, he was just far more experienced than myself and this was his way of telling me to do the hard work…

In the last several decades or so, there will be many instances of scenarios where people have stated that the IBM Mainframe is just too difficult to operate; too expensive to even consider and in general, just the preserve of an aging workforce, which will inevitably become extinct, just like the dinosaurs.  Of course, such a viewpoint isn’t necessarily balanced and pragmatic and the IBM Mainframe community, supplier and customers alike have safeguarded the longevity and strategic importance of this platform.

Having worked with the IBM Mainframe platform for ~35 years, one of the most inspiring and can do scenarios I have encountered was articulated at the recent SHARE Winter 2016 conference.  In a session named, I Just Bought an IBM z890 – Now What?, Connor Krukosky a student from Cecil Community College articulates how he commissioned a used z890 in his home environment for $340.60!  The several hundred dollars cost is impressive, but the most impressive aspect of this story is the can do attitude of Connor and the community spirit of those who assisted them.

In a timeframe where very young students can learn programming with low cost platforms such as the Raspberry Pi and The BBC micro:bit, isn’t it great that we can see a young adult student find a seemingly obsolete Mainframe platform via an on-line auction site and then find a way of commissioning that platform once again?

As always, where there is a will there is a way, and if you look closely enough at this scenario, even if you don’t know anything about the IBM Mainframe platform, you might just learn that even an IBM Mainframe first released in 2004 can be considered as an “open system” and with a “can do attitude”, can be implemented with little or no experience.

As for Connor Krukosky, good luck young man and great job!  I hope you find a great job in your chosen field and if it’s working with the System z platform, we welcome you to our open and proud community.