Windows Server 2008 and Itanium: No, Obviously Not Better

I had a really good laugh watching this video:

That video was uploaded to YouTube on November 29, 2009 — less than two years ago. But just barely four months later, on April 2, 2010, Microsoft announced that Windows Server 2008 R2 would be the last Windows operating system for Itanium systems.

No, Windows 2008 and Itanium are not a "better alternative to the mainframe." They aren't even alternatives at all.

The Itanium turmoil in recent months is a good reminder of one of the hallmarks of mainframe computing: durability. As IBM celebrates its 100th birthday this week, I think the company's most astonishing accomplishment is the continuing fulfillment of a promise made in 1964, with the announcement of the System/360. It was a simple but powerful promise, one that requires extraordinary focus and continuous investment to keep: never again would people have to re-write applications unless there was a business reason to do so.

Here we are, over 47 years later, and IBM has kept that promise. Some people say the mainframe is "old." No, it's Itanium that's old, because Itanium couldn't even accomplish what the System/360 did starting in the mid-1960s: preserve your investment in your valuable code, written in any language — even 24-bit assembler.

Now, that's not to say you should keep all that old code. You might improve it, extend it, renovate it, adapt it, enable it, or otherwise do something with it. But those decisions should be based insofar as possible solely on business reasons, not on the whims of vendors. Breaking code is really, really expensive. It's durability that's extremely valuable — and thoroughly modern.

So if you've got a business process that you want to automate, and if the process (or at least its steps) might be around for a while, it's a very good idea to develop on the mainframe where you can keep running as long as you like. But it's not only that. That old code isn't trapped in some time capsule. You can fold, spindle, and mutilate it as much or as little as you want. You can run that old code right alongside code written 5 minutes ago, with old and new cooperating in myriad ways. It really is a magnificent accomplishment, one that hasn't been replicated.

Happy 100th birthday, IBM. And thanks for the durability.

by Timothy Sipples June 17, 2011 in Application Development, History


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I think that updating your code is really important. Especially if you want it to load fast on all browsers or even be seen

Posted by: Micah Castro | Jul 5, 2011 6:52:31 PM

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