MainFrame Computers: Types, Uses, Differences, etc

Mainframe Computer: This article is all about the mainframe computer. In this article you will come to know How mainframe computers work, mainframe computer types, mainframe computers and supercomputer differences, etc.

MainFrame Computers: Types, Uses, Difference, etc

MainFrame Computers: About, Types, Uses, Difference, etc
Note: The Information Provided is collected from internet, so this is the all information provided on Internet about Mainframe Computers.

As, technology has grown much from the past so you may see some differences in term of Mainframe Technology. 

Remaining information are mostly correct as the meaning of a term does't changes.

What exactly is a Mainframe?

Mainframe is mini super computer, to put in simple terms, it is computing device like normal PC. it has CPU, monitor and it’s own keyboard. remember the mainframe keyboard is different than the normal PC keyboard.

What is the difference between mainframe computers and supercomputers?

Mainframes process thousands of queries simultaneously while Supercomputers process one single but most complex problem at once. This is the main difference between Mainframes and Supercomputers.


• Run multiple programs concurrently
• Support many concurrent users
• Support new and legacy software (backwards compatibility)
• Run many different kinds of operating systems (z/OS, Linux, etc.)
• Uninterrupted operation
• Have performance measured in Millions of Instructions per Second (MIPS).
• Perform tasks on huge amounts of external data
• Are flexible enough to run many kinds of applications and tackle broad business tasks.


• Focus processing power to execute a few programs or instructions as quickly as possible
• Focused on speed and accelerated performance
• Push boundaries of what hardware and software can accomplish
• Typically run a variant of Linux as their operating system
• Are typically run at maximum capability, putting the computer’s full processing resources toward solving a particular problem
• Are often a cluster or grid of smaller computers working together on whatever problem they are looking to solve
• Have performance measured in Floating Point Operations per Second (FLOPS)
• Execute complicated computations using large internal memory
• Have dedicated purposes for tasks like scientific research or engineering models

How many types of mainframe computers are there?

here are currently five* major manufacturers of what are generally considered “mainframes” today. (I am not considering emulation products, although some of the manufacturers do market emulator platforms based on Intel architecture chips.) In no particular order:

  • IBM: This is what people think of today when they hear the word “mainframe”. The platform (z/Architecture) is 64-bit, and runs five different operating systems, plus a hypervisor: z/OS, z/VSE, z/VM, z/TPF, three blessed flavors of Linux (SuSE, Red Hat, and Ubuntu), and KVM for Linux. Some have gotten the bleeding edge versions of the blessed flavors running as well, and some have even gotten other distros to run. IBM produces one Intel-based emulator platform with two different marketing approaches.
  • Fujitsu & Hitachi: The Japanese clones. They are IBM System/390-based, meaning they support 31-bit and access registers. They have their own versions of the MVS/ESA, VSE/ESA, and VM/ESA operating systems based on IBM’s operating systems (and some serious legal tussles occurred regarding this). When IBM introduced 64-bit, both companies decided that the ROI for following along was too little, so they have stayed at this level. They are primarily found in Asia and Oceana these days; up into the early 2000s, Fujitsu also had some European customers. (Other than the next item, I don’t know if they are producing Intel-based emulation.)
  • Fujitsu, né Fujitsu-Siemens, né Siemens-Nixdorf…: Fujitsu gets double mention here (thus the above asterisk), as they have a line of System/390 machines that run the BS2000/OSD operating system. BS2000/OSD is a powerful interactive & batch operating system based on an ancient RCA Spectra 70 product. It is primarily found in Western Europe, mostly Germany, but there are some UK customers. It used to also be found sometimes in Asia, but I haven’t heard of anything there recently. This operating system never made it to the USA; I’m not sure if it ever made it to the Americas. There is also a VM2000 operating system, whose sole purpose is to act as a hypervisor; there is no IBM-CMS-like development environment. This platform does have Intel-based emulation platforms.
  • Unisys: The ClearPath platform supports the two differing architectures based on the two companies that merged to form Unisys: Burroughs (ClearPath MCP, MCP operating system) and Sperry (ClearPath Dorado, OS 2200). They are producing Intel-based emulation platforms as well, and you can now get Windows-based emulations for educational and leisure purposes.
  • Bull: Bull has its Honeywell/General Electric-originated Novascale machines, still running GCOS after all these years. They also have some Intel-based emulation platforms.

MainFrame Computers in Brief

Mainframe computers are notorious for sucking up tons of memory (transistors) in a lot of computational power, so consuming lots of power. But the good news is that computers run entirely on very low-power cores, which helps when you’re traveling a lot, or checking your email and navigating within your laptop.

These days, mainframes typically use memory modules and switches that are not very fast in terms of comparison with today’s computers, but they will keep you running smoothly for many years.


Computers today are highly computationally intensive (after all, what good are words on a page if they don’t generate data?) They require high-powered systems for processing and communicating with the mainframes or other mainframe computers.

Computers run entirely on RAM or hard drives, but you’ll want one that has plenty of RAM for keeping it running at all times.

Power and Computers

Your mainframe computer will be very powerful, allowing you to connect to many other processors and run thousands of programs on a single processor (see Figure 1).

Think of your computer as a very powerful microprocessor with millions of cores (or microprocessors), and imagine a computer as a mainframe that you plug into your lap with lots of memory in front of you.

But most computers don’t run on RAM or hard drives, so to increase the speed and efficiency, you’ll need to add a network to your computer. The mainframe on your laptop will typically be connected to a network (connect it to a mainframe on your mainframe’s mainframe), and that will save you time and energy when you need to transfer lots of data from mainframes to your computer.

In addition, you’ll want a computer that runs off the same types of servers that will keep your mainframe running. As the only computer that will make your computer run, you’ll need a computer that is pretty close to a mainframe. Otherwise, you’ll have to find a computer that also has an operating system compatible with the mainframe’s operating system.

In contrast, you can run mainframe computer programs on your computer.


Today’s computers run on extremely small (ultra-low-power) processors, but they require lots of memory to store programs (and other data), and lots of power for running the programs and for charging the batteries to keep the computers running (they draw power continuously).

In contrast, mainframe computers use very large processors that run all sorts of very fast calculations. They require lots of power, so when you’re on the road and want to check your email or your schedule on a small computer with a battery to run all day (but you’ll probably want it to be fast, too), you won’t have many options. Most computers you find on the street today will not be very fast, and they will consume too much power to do any kind of real work.


The Mainframe App Challenge

In contrast, a mainframe has plenty of memory for storing programs and data (just like a computer that’s on the mainframe’s mainframe), it uses very powerful processors (the smallest processors typically run faster than most laptops) to solve very complex computations, and it runs on very powerful (high-power) servers.

A mainframe usually uses an operating system that has been designed to run on very large machines that have lots of memory and many processors. As a result, the operating system is very similar to a microprocessor on the mainframe.

Depending on the operating system, you’ll likely be able to use the same processors for data processing and running programs, so your computer will be very fast in comparison with today’s computers.

For example, if you want to run Microsoft Windows on the mainframe, you’ll have to set up a Windows machine on the mainframe. If you want to run Microsoft Office on the mainframe, you’ll need to set up a Microsoft Excel on the mainframe, and then install a Microsoft Word on your mainframe computer. Then you’ll probably want to connect your mainframe computer to your mainframe computer and install Microsoft Exchange Server on your mainframe and any web-based email or scheduling software on your mainframe computer. And, if you want to use your mainframe computer for a computationally-intensive project, you’ll likely need to set up a virtual machine (or two or three) on your mainframe, and then connect your virtual machines to your mainframe computer to get the work done.

In fact, if you think about it, many of the apps you’ll find on your smartphone today can’t even run on today’s fastest computers (which are often a lot slower than the mainframe computers of the past). That means you’ll need to have all the right apps installed on your mainframe computer, and probably need to connect your mainframe computer to your mainframe computer (at least one of them), and you’ll probably need to connect your mainframe computer to a central server (that might be a network hub in your basement or another server in your building).

This is not a fast computer, by the way.

The Computational Fabric of the Mainframe

Today, there are lots of computing systems on the mainframe that do different types of computations. For example, today you can run a mainframe computer that does a main computationally intensive program (such as running Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel) on your smartphone or on your desktop computer.

This is how today’s smartphones and tablets work. However, you can run a very powerful computing system on a smartphone or on your desktop computer, but you probably won’t be able to run a very powerful computing system on the mainframe.

You can use today’s smartphones and tablets to run hundreds or even thousands of different types of computations, but you won’t be able to do any computationally-intensive program, such as running Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel, on the mainframe. That means you’ll probably need to wait until the mainframe computers get faster and faster. That’s what you’ve been waiting for, isn’t it?

The Computational Fabric of the Mainframe

Of course, with all that talk of mainframes, you probably wondered how the “compute fabric” of the mainframe works. That’s why I’m sharing a picture of the compute fabric of a mainframe computer and how it works.

Many computers have their own “disk drives,” which are little devices that can store a lot of data (as many as thousands of megabytes). This information is stored on the disk drives using disks (mainframes often have thousands of disks in their data centers, and individual devices may have thousands or even tens of thousands of disks).

In addition to disks, a mainframe computer also needs computers (mainframes are sometimes called “mainframes, processors, and peripherals”) to manage the computers on the computer. This computer management software helps the computers on the mainframe communicate with each other and with other computers in the computing fabric.

Of course, the computers on the mainframe all need to communicate with each other using the common network that everyone in the computing fabric uses. This network, called the “mainframe network,” makes communication easy. However, the network might not be the fastest networking technology available, so you may not be able to send emails directly from your smartphone to your smartphone, or to send email directly to your smartphone.

You may also need to set up separate email accounts or web-based email programs (such as Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft Outlook) for your smartphone and for your mainframe computer. That’s because most of the software you’ll be able to use on your smartphone and on your smartphone-enabled mainframe will need to use email or web-based email.

In fact, you’ll likely need to connect to your smartphone via a phone cable (that connects directly to your smartphone) when you’re working on your smartphone or working on your mainframe computer, and when you’re not working on either of them, you’ll need to have either a computer cable or a data-transfer cable connecting your smartphone to the mainframe (or to your smartphone’s data-transfer slot). Of course, you don’t have to connect a data-transfer cable to your smartphone or your smartphone-enabled mainframe. That’s just the normal way computers work.

Of course, with all that, what is a mainframe computer anyway? The mainframe computer is a very powerful computing system that’s usually located in a large, centralized building.

An important part of a mainframe computer is the mainframe network, the very large networking system that makes communication from your smartphone and from your smartphone-enabled mainframe computer to other computers on the computing fabric easier and faster. The mainframe network has been around for decades and is still very fast, so it’s still very useful today.

If you want to read more about how mainframes work, and about what’s new on the mainframe computers, read this article: The Mainframe: What You Should Know.

At the end of this article, I’ll mention a few good books you can read about mainframes.

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