Forty five years ago, on April 7, 1964, the introduction of the IBM System/360 sparked a revolution in computing and business. And it occurred not in Silicon Valley, but in New York’s Hudson Valley, about 90 miles from New York City.
Many consider it the biggest business bet of all time. At the height of IBM’s success, Thomas J. Watson, Jr. bet the company’s future on concept of computing compatibility.
It was a massive undertaking of unprecedented scope. In 1964 dollars, IBM invested three-quarters of a billion dollars just on engineering, and another $4.5 billion on factories and equipment. It hired more than 60,000 new employees and opened five major new plants. It was believed to be the largest privately financed commercial project ever undertaken.
The System/360 revolution was built on a simple, yet powerful concept: a single system with backward/forward compatibility, virtually unlimited storage, and instant retrieval capabilities that provided up-to-the-minute decision-making information. Forty five years later, many of the breakthroughs born on the System/360 remain fundamental building blocks of computing.
The System/360, in many ways, sparked the PC boom of the 80s, the growth of the Internet, and facilitated dramatic economic growth and prosperity by marrying business and technology. Among the technologies first appearing on the System/360 – transaction processing, micro-circuitry, and relational databases.
Apart from the impact on a worldwide level, System/360 has also made significant inroads in Thailand as it was the driving engine behind several major government projects and top enterprises’ mission critical operations. For example, it was used to support National Statistics Office’s population census project, Thai Airways’ flight reservation system, and online transaction processing including ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) systems for the large commercial banks in Thailand.
Among the technology breakthroughs originated from System/360:
• Transaction Processing — Customer Information Control System (CICS) is the forerunner of all transaction systems and paved the way for future innovations, including ATM transactions, online shopping, and e-business of every kind. It’s still in use in virtually every mainframe in the world.
• Microcircuitry – The S/360 was the first commercially available data processing system whose design was based on the use of micro-miniaturized computer circuits or Solid Logic Technology (SLT).
• The first database – The S/360 featured IBM’s Information Management System (IMS), built for NASA as part of the Apollo 11 project that put the first man on the Moon. IMS set the stage for the development of IBM’s DB2 database software.
• Backward/Forward Compatibility – The S/360′s emulation capabilities were, in many ways, the forerunner to today’s open movement. Emulation allowed older software programs to run unchanged on the S/360. In fact, early S/360 customers shared software programs among themselves, leading to the creation of SHARE, a mainframe users group that is similar in many ways to Linux and other open source users groups active today.
In fact, the impact of the System/360 does not transcend computing alone. As American business sought new technologies to keep pace with the boom of the post-war economy, this powerful new business tool stimulated the growth and prosperity of entire industries and government institutions.
• Serving as the backbone of the SABRE reservation system for the burgeoning airline industry;
• Facilitating space flights at NASA
• And serving as the central nervous system for the world’s government and financial institutions.
Key Milestones of IBM Mainframe 45 year History
1964 – April 7: IBM introduces the System/360 as a "new generation of electronic computing equipment." It’s named after the degrees in a circle, since it was meant to "encompass every need of every user." Just shortly after the worldwide launch, IBM Thailand also introduced mainframe locally which is very well received both in government and business circles.
1964 – IBM launched the Semi-Automatic Business- Related Environment – SABRE System—a two-year project with American Airlines to develop the first real-time reservation system.
1966 – IBM computers process more than 19 million Medicare identification cards for the Social Security Administration just one year after the U.S. Congress creates Medicare. Also in the same year, IBM also introduced Thai language on System/360 and is very well received by many businesses and government offices.
1967 – Thailand’s National Statistics Office chose IBM System/360 to support its main operations and became the first Thai government office to use IBM mainframe in Thailand.
1968 – CICS debuted, bringing computer applications out of the machine room and allowing companies to enter, update and retrieve data in the workplace. Today, CICS continues to help millions perform their jobs better.
1969 – Several System/360 servers, IMS 360 and IBM software support NASA’s Apollo 11 landing on the moon. For years to come, IBM computers remain involved with space exploration.
1969 – Thai Airways Public Company Ltd., the national flag carrier, installed IBM System/360 to support its main operations.
1971 – Bangkok Bank Public Company Ltd., one of the largest commercial banks in Thailand, selected IBM System/360 to support its online transaction processing (online banking) and became the first Thai commercial bank to implement IBM mainframe.
1972 – IBM introduced virtualization on mainframe (z/VM) with an aim to improve asset management and lay the groundwork for the on demand world. Today, z/VM helps create an agile mainframe where resources can be utilized effectively and quickly, with improved security and 24-7 availability.
1979 – IBM introduced the Universal Product Code (UPC), followed by holographic scanner technology, which originated the ‘Bar Code’ technology. Together, they help revolutionize the retail industry and highlight the mainframe’s critical role in customer transactions and inventory-tracking databases.
1980 – IBM offered the 3081 processor. The 3081 includes a two-fold increase in internal performance. It also features Thermal Conduction Modules that significantly reduce space, cooling and power requirements. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. acknowledges this innovation in 1990 with its Corporate Innovation Recognition.
1983 – Siam Commercial Bank, one of Thailand’s leading commercial banks, introduced the first Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) for public use in Thailand and its ATM online transaction processing was running on IBM mainframe.
1988 – IBM customers deployed DB2 beyond Decision Support Systems (DSS) and core transactional processing—driving reductions in CPU costs and dramatic improvements in concurrency. This development helps establish DB2 on the mainframe as a foundation for future application development.
1991 – Some industry pundits predicted the rapid growth in personal computers and small servers will render Big Iron obsolete.
1992 – Expo ’92 World Fair opened in Seville and IBM Spain provides a network featuring two IBM mainframe computers and more than 700 PS/2 personal computers as the centerpiece of its information support. This became the origin of the Client / Server technology that is widely in use today.
1994 – IBM announced the System/390 Parallel Sysplex offering, which allows for high levels of system availability.
1995 – The mainframe utilized CMOS-based processors, setting the new roadmap for modern mainframe technology. CMOS chips require less power than chips using one type of transistor.
1998 – IBM introduced the System/390, Generation 5 server. The Turbo model smashes the 1,000 MIPS barrier, making it one of the world’s most powerful mainframes.
2000 – Linux appeared on the zSeries server, a demonstration of IBM’s commitment to leading-edge technology and open standards. The combination brings together the revolutionary flexibility of open-source computing with the mainframe’s legendary scalability and reliability.
2001 – IBM reported it has nearly doubled the mainframe’s capability to process highly secure Internet transactions, and the IBM zSeries 900 is the first to achieve a record 3,850 transactions per second.
2003 -The zSeries 990 is the result of a four-year, more than $1 billion investment in the zSeries platform, involving 1,200 IBM developers. The z990 is the most powerful and scalable IBM mainframe to date, with twice the virtualization capabilities previously offered.
2004 – Many leading businesses in Thailand started using Linux on mainframe especially on server consolidation projects as a means to enhance their system management capabilities and energy efficiency.
2005 – The company introduces the IBM System z9 mainframe. This represents a three-year, $1.2 billion development effort encompassing 5,000 IBM experts worldwide. The new mainframe system can process 1 billion transactions a day, more than double the performance of its predecessor, run five world-class OSs and process up to 6,000 secure online handshakes per second.
2007 – IBM announced Project Big Green -a plan to shrink 3,900 servers to about 30 mainframes running Linux, with a goal of reducing energy consumption by 80 percent in five years. Since 1997, IBM has consolidated its strategic worldwide data centers from 155 to seven.
2007 – IBM Thailand Co., Ltd., in partnership with King Mongkut University of Technology, Thonburi (KMUTT) organized "Master the Mainframe Challenge 2007" contest for university students in Thailand. All the 3 contest winners are from Chulalongkorn University.
2008 – More than 600 new or updated applications are introduced for the IBM mainframe in the first eight months of 2008—bringing the total to more than 5,000 unique applications. Nearly 2,500 of these applications are Linux technology based.
2008 – More than 500 universities worldwide partner to teach mainframe and large systems skills, up from 24 in 2004. In the past four years, more than 50,000 students participate in mainframe education.
2008 – IBM announced the System z10 server. The System z10 Enterprise Class and the System z10 Business Class mainframes represent more than a $1.5 billion investment, five years of development and a global team of more than 5,000 technical professionals. Both models provide a much higher level of security, control and automation.
2008 – With introduction of the System z10 Enterprise Class, IBM shatters its 1,000 MIPS threshold set in 1998. The largest model processes more than 30,000 MIPS at a lower price point.
2009 – IBM introduced Dynamic Infrastructure concept to address the Smarter Planet challenges. IBM System z is classified as part of the dynamic infrastructure due to its high availability, enhanced security, and energy efficiency that would help enterprises reduce cost, manage risk and improve service and enable them to overcome various challenges.
Tanapong Ittisakulchai is country manager, Systems and Technology Group,IBM Thailand