Remember the "mainframe is dead" rhetoric back in the early 1990s? Boy, was that line of reasoning wrong. Lou Gerstner changed the pricing and services model, and users quickly determined that it would be way too hard re-writing legacy code.
Recent news indicates just how alive and well the mainframe remains. First, IBM announced the availability of its Z9 system this summer, which may be the world's most advanced business computer. This box supports geographically-dispersed clustering for high availability, secure virtual partitions, Linux, and J2EE interfaces. IBM is obviously serious about making sure that the mainframe plays a central role as companies build out their Service Oriented Architectures.
Now that the next-generation hardware is in place, IBM is working to solve another problem. As each year passes, more and more people with mainframe skills are thinking about a retirement condo at Del Boca Vista instead of Cobol code. So what's IBM doing? Training tens of thousands of future mainframe developers and operations managers in China. This creates a simple action/reaction formula for IBM: as mainframers leave the work force, IBM's outsourcing business will continue to grow.
So what does this mean? While HP and Sun struggle to maintain their enterprise business, IBM is sitting in the catbird's seat. Mainframes aren't going anywhere so Sam Palmisano and crew will remain on everyone's data center short list with a product portfolio ranging from servers to management software. In addition, IBM will continue to be in a strong position to influence next generation software architecture and grid computing standards.
You may rarely read about the mainframe anymore, but it continues to anchor enterprise computing. IBM couldn't be happier.