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We hear a lot about big data these days, but not as much about just really big hardware. I’m talking about mainframes.

Yes, these are the behemoths that process massive amounts of data and resemble a piece of furniture more than something you’d associate with IT (and always seem to end up getting hacked for unexplained reasons).

This week’s TBT is a bit of a tricky one — mainframes are in fact still around, after all. Who would have thought that they would still be a core part of IBM’s business, with sales up 15% Year-over-Year for the latest quarter? And at $1 million a piece for these modern, bladed, Z series mainframes of the future, these aren’t small sums being recorded in the IBM record books.

But as a whole, gone are the days where companies house these big, heavy pieces of machinery as the cornerstones of their datacenter operations, as they increasingly modernize their server infrastructure and even move datacenter operations (especially in SMBs) into the cloud. Just like that discarded console TV that sits unloved in your grandma’s basement, mainframes are a far cry from their peak usage in the 60s and 70s.

Continuing on this theme, I was once on a webinar where the speaker called the mainframe, “the red-headed stepchild of IT.” I’d argue that while to a point that this is accurate (you won’t see mainframes as purchase #1 using IT spend), mainframes have settled nicely into a role as a “niche” player. They may not be in mom-and-pop’s data center any longer, but they are a powerhouse for the financial sector and Fortune 500 companies, doing only what they can do, in crunching and churning massive sets of numbers.

We salute you, mainframe. A much smaller set of IT managers utilize you today (not only because of their decreasing relevance, but because of the uber-specialized skill sets needed), but you are still IBM — and the financial sector’s — darling.

Check out all of our TechPro TBTs, and for more information on optimizing your data center operations, view our free research report, Optimize IT Infrastructure to Maximize Workload Performance.

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