Author Topic: NASA pulls the plug on the mainframe computer era  (Read 279 times)

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Offline Walkyr

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NASA pulls the plug on the mainframe computer era
« on: February 14, 2012, 01:37:20 AM »
NASA pulls the plug on the mainframe computer era
By Donald Melanson  posted Feb 14th 2012 1:12AM



It's the end of another era at NASA, although this one was perhaps more inevitable than others. Chief Information Officer Linda Cureton announced in a blog post over the weekend that the agency's last mainframe computer was shut down this month, marking an end to decades of room-filling computers. Of course, that last mainframe was considerably more recent than that pictured above. It was an IBM Z9 (pictured at the source link below), still quite a behemoth and useful for certain applications, but deemed unnecessary by NASA in the face of other more flexible alternatives. Feeling nostalgic or curious about those days gone by? You can find a bit of mainframe history at the links below.

http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/mainframe/mainframe_intro.html

http://www.tomshardware.com/picturestory/508-mainframe-computer-history.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mainframe_computer

Offline Shoelayceberry the [Unlaced]

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Re: NASA pulls the plug on the mainframe computer era
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2012, 01:34:06 PM »
Will be cool to look at, but I don't think we're through with the mainframe era just yet. They are starting to become more power conscientious that their blade counter parts, from what I understand.
“At least once every human should have to run for his life, to teach him that milk does not come from supermarkets, that safety does not come from policemen, that “news” is not something that happens to other people.” - Robert Heinlein, The Number of the Beast.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others." - Nelson Mandela 1994 Inaugural Speech

Offline pupu von knitting

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Re: NASA pulls the plug on the mainframe computer era
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2012, 07:54:33 PM »

Offline Walkyr

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Re: NASA pulls the plug on the mainframe computer era
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2012, 07:58:15 PM »
"It was not until 1943 that the five-ton, 51-ft. long, mechanical beast ran its first calculation. Because the computer needed mechanical synchronization between its different calculating units, there was a shaft driven by a five-horsepower motor running its entire length."

lol... give it some gas it calculates quicker?

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Re: NASA pulls the plug on the mainframe computer era
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2012, 07:59:10 PM »
"It was not until 1943 that the five-ton, 51-ft. long, mechanical beast ran its first calculation. Because the computer needed mechanical synchronization between its different calculating units, there was a shaft driven by a five-horsepower motor running its entire length."

lol... give it some gas it calculates quicker?
it's perfect  :evil:

Offline Utumnoberry the Berry Big

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Re: NASA pulls the plug on the mainframe computer era
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2012, 09:23:35 PM »
Will be cool to look at, but I don't think we're through with the mainframe era just yet. They are starting to become more power conscientious that their blade counter parts, from what I understand.

Kindof agree here, there's actually some good use cases for mainframes and in certain niche applications I hear people advocating for them again (after a long period of these-dinosaurs-are-on-their-way-out).

Also think that in some sense the lines are blurring between mainframes and huge clusters of commodity servers.  Yes, you can build extremely large/powerful clusters of commodity servers now (glorified pc's basically) and have a google-style compute farm, but not many people have the resources to do that and maintain it.  You are now seeing large established companies (including IBM and the like, ironically) who will happily build you a big cluster, supply all the networking and high-I/O interconnects, set up the clustering software, and support the whole thing.  At that point, you're essentially back to a mainframe model that spans several racks that is probably lacking in the ability to scale vertically.

A lot of assumption here on my part, of course, as I'm only going by what I know of mainframes, but I think there still seems to be a place for vertically-scaled systems.

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Re: NASA pulls the plug on the mainframe computer era
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2012, 07:41:57 PM »
Blades and the Cloud Computing Servers we put out are going to be the future at Dell.

We're selling not X amount of C-Series servers, but entire rack rows of them to Amazon when they buy servers. The end solution is going to be cloud hosting for small/medium business because the maintance of a server hardware is going to be not cost effecient for smaller companies.

Though I think the amount of "Server" you can get in a compact space, I would almost bet a blade in a HPCC could outpreform a main-frame today.

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“At least once every human should have to run for his life, to teach him that milk does not come from supermarkets, that safety does not come from policemen, that “news” is not something that happens to other people.” - Robert Heinlein, The Number of the Beast.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others." - Nelson Mandela 1994 Inaugural Speech

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Re: NASA pulls the plug on the mainframe computer era
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2012, 03:20:30 AM »
Blades and the Cloud Computing Servers we put out are going to be the future at Dell.

We're selling not X amount of C-Series servers, but entire rack rows of them to Amazon when they buy servers. The end solution is going to be cloud hosting for small/medium business because the maintance of a server hardware is going to be not cost effecient for smaller companies.

Though I think the amount of "Server" you can get in a compact space, I would almost bet a blade in a HPCC could outpreform a main-frame today.

Cloud hosting is fantastic for many things, but I've repeatedly found it's not a cure-all and has some extreme limitations in terms of reliable performance. Don't get me wrong, with the right software design/architecture you can get around just about all the performance limitations inherent in a public shared cloud infrastructure, but by the time you've implemented this, you could well be paying many times what you would in a traditional colo model.  It really depends on the application... web apps or instance-driven compute are ideally suited for cloud deployment.  Traditional database and high-performance transactions are not.  Sure you can get around performance problems with a ton of caching (elastic-cache or your own memcached setup in the cloud) but you still don't have the flexibility or toolset available to vertically scaled databases.

From what I can tell, scale-out/cloud architecture is suitable for a growing percentage of applications, and most companies are probably well served to look into either private or public "cloud" compute.  But for a small subset of apps, there's really no comparison - some stuff is absolutely better on dedicated scale-up hardware and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

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“There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible and wrong.” - H. L. Mencken

Offline john_is_war

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Re: NASA pulls the plug on the mainframe computer era
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2012, 09:23:07 PM »
Will be cool to look at, but I don't think we're through with the mainframe era just yet. They are starting to become more power conscientious that their blade counter parts, from what I understand.

Kindof agree here, there's actually some good use cases for mainframes and in certain niche applications I hear people advocating for them again (after a long period of these-dinosaurs-are-on-their-way-out).

Also think that in some sense the lines are blurring between mainframes and huge clusters of commodity servers.  Yes, you can build extremely large/powerful clusters of commodity servers now (glorified pc's basically) and have a google-style compute farm, but not many people have the resources to do that and maintain it.  You are now seeing large established companies (including IBM and the like, ironically) who will happily build you a big cluster, supply all the networking and high-I/O interconnects, set up the clustering software, and support the whole thing.  At that point, you're essentially back to a mainframe model that spans several racks that is probably lacking in the ability to scale vertically.

A lot of assumption here on my part, of course, as I'm only going by what I know of mainframes, but I think there still seems to be a place for vertically-scaled systems.

That's precisely the thing about cloud technology. It's designed to scale vertically linearly. You can scale up, but in sufficient quantities it's not worth the time and effort to go through server by server upgrading from 64 to 128GB of RAM. It makes more sense to scale out as your demands necessitate it.
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