What is Mainframe Computing? Benefits and Limitations

Mainframe computers perform complex and critical computing in large corporations and governments across the world.

Mainframe machines are fast, smart, and capable of the advanced computing necessary for our generation of corporate IT infrastructure and business goals. The mainframe is the main processor computer used by most companies. Mainframe processors are designed for specific tasks. They have a very large memory capacity, which is designed for heavy-duty applications. It is a type of computer usually used by many users and can easily handle a high volume of users. Mainframe is one of the first types of computer.

The mainframe is a system that supports several thousand times more users than the average user and has a huge advantage. In addition, a system capable of supporting millions of files in a directory structure can take advantage of the fact that there is no need to store information redundantly.

What Is a Mainframe?

We tend to think of computers as just one part of our everyday lives. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, computers make up a tiny fraction of the world we live in. If you wanted to, you could build a house out of them. But you’d never make a home out of anything else.

Mainframe computers are much different. They make up a whopping 70 per cent of the world’s computers. And with that, a lot of our lives become a whole lot easier.

Today, our world has moved away from the days of mainframes. Because they are so important, we need a wide variety of companies to bring them to life.

That’s one reason why mainframes are no longer the exclusive province of the large corporations that once relied on them. Many different companies are getting involved.

In fact, small, independent businesses are the main force behind the growth of the mainframe today. They rely on these computers because they have much to gain from them. The pros of mainframe computing are so strong that it’s surprising no one thought of them sooner.

Let us look at the features that make mainframes a preferred computing platform and also at a few of their drawbacks.

Advantages of mainframe computing

High-level computing: One of the main characteristics of mainframe computers is their ability to process data and run applications at high speeds. Business computing requires more high-speed input/output (I/O) than raw computing speed. Mainframes effectively deliver it. Further, as business computing also demands wide bandwidth connections, mainframe design balances I/O performance and bandwidth.

Increased processing power: Mainframe computers are supported by large numbers of high-power processors. Moreover, unlike other computers, mainframes delegate I/O to hundreds of processors, thus confining the main processor to application processing only. This feature is unique to mainframes and makes them superior in processing.

Reliability, availability, and serviceability (RAS): The RAS characteristics of a computer have often been some of the most important factors in data processing. Mainframe computers exhibit effective RAS characteristics in both hardware and software.

Mainframe systems are reliable because they can detect, report, and self-recover from system problems. Furthermore, they can recover without disturbing the entire working system, thus keeping most applications available.

The serviceability of mainframes means they make it relatively easy to detect and diagnose problems, making it easy to fix problems in a short time and with little downtime.


As mainframes are explicitly designed for large organizations where the confidentiality of data is critical, mainframe computers have extensive capabilities for securely storing and protecting data. They provide security systems for large numbers of applications, all accessing confidential data. Mainframe security often integrates multiple security and monitoring services: user authentication, auditing, access control, and firewalls.

High-end scalability

The scalability of a computing platform is its ability to perform even as processors, memory, and storage are added. Mainframe computers are known for their scalability in both hardware and software. They easily run multiple tasks of varying complexity.

Continuing compatibility

Continuing compatibility is one of the popular characteristics of mainframe computers. They support applications of varying ages. Mainframe computers have been upgraded many times and continue to work with many combinations of old, new, and emerging software.

Long-lasting performance

Mainframe computers are known for their long-lasting performance. Once installed, mainframe systems work for years without major issues or downtime.

Disadvantages of mainframe computing

One of the prominent drawbacks of mainframes is their cost. Hardware and software for mainframes are clearly expensive. However, compared to the cost of other routes to security, IT management, virtualization, etc., the cost of mainframes is significantly less.

Secondly, mainframe hardware occupies more space than other computers. That large space might be a constraint for small establishments. But that problem is not as severe as it once was. Compared to earlier machines, today’s mainframes are small.

Finally, one needs high-end skills to work with mainframe computers. You cannot operate a mainframe environment without specific training. However, as one skilled administrator can serve a large group of mainframe users, using mainframes significantly reduces people costs and thus offers a significant staffing advantage.

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