SHARE in Anaheim Keynote: “Make the Extraordinary Possible”


Chances are the mainframe touched your life today in some way.

Anytime you use a credit card, withdraw cash from an ATM, buy something with a barcode that’s scanned or conduct any number of activities typical of daily life, you have the mainframe to thank for making it a seamless transaction.

That profound influence was celebrated Monday as Pat Toole, general manager for System z at IBM kicked off SHARE in Anaheim with his keynote address, “IBM Mainframe: Driving Future Industry-Changing Reinvention and Transformation.”

“There isn’t really anything in the world that hasn’t been affected by the mainframe,” Toole said as he spoke about System z’s pervasive reach over the past 50 years.

The mainframe drives technology, he said, that touches people’s lives on a deeply personal level.

Businesses with a rich legacy have seen their operations transformed through the mainframe, Toole said. Fratelli Carli, for example, was founded more than a century ago as an olive oil producer that delivered its wares door to door. Through the decades, it has maintained that deep relationship with its customers, even as it evolved to accept phone and eCommerce orders for a wide range of products.

That adaptation—and expansion—was made possible through the mainframe, which allowed Fratelli Carli to take advantage of the platform’s scale while reducing costs.

At a much larger magnitude, Visa has also relied on System z for decades to process 150 million transactions a day—that’s 40,000 transactions every second. Remarkably, Visa hasn’t experienced even one second of downtime in the past 20 years.

“That’s the promise of the platform we’ve been working so hard to deliver,” Toole said.

That reliability and security has huge ramifications for social good, as well, he said.

Business Connexion, which operates on a system built entirely on System z, works with 14 telecos across Africa to bring the Internet to 85 percent of the population and deliver retail banking to people who never had it before.

“Their vision is to enrich communities by making the impossible possible through technology,” Toole said.

It’s a mission, he said, that is very much synonymous with what legendary IBM Board Chair Thomas J. Watson, Jr., had in mind when he announced the mainframe’s birth in April 1964.

“This is the beginning of a new generation—not only of computers— but of their application in business, science and government,” Watson said.

The technology is also transforming and improving lives through IBM Dream Challenges, the first of which Toole said will open up the platform to rheumatoid arthritis researchers. About 300 researchers have already signed up to compete to create a predictive model that will help determine which patients will respond to treatments that have, at best, a 30 percent success rate.

“It’s perfectly in line with the vision for why we developed the platform,” Toole said. More challenges are scheduled to be announced in April.

With such a dynamic past and present, the future for System z is nothing short of astonishing, he said. In our lifetime, developers predict atomic-level storage will be within our grasp—as well as neurosynaptic chips that work at the speed of light.

That level of innovation, Toole said, will be delivered because of the passion inherent to the people who make the mainframe their life’s work.

“We’re counting on you to help us continue to make the extraordinary possible,” Toole said.

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