Mainframes – the Unsung Heroes of Payments

Mainframes – the Unsung Heroes of Payments

I came across an article the other day on a Mainframe Site by Marcel den Hartog called ‘Why do mainframe applications run FOREVER?!?’ I feel it is worth sharing with all those young guns out there. To quote Mr den Hartog “We simply don’t make applications with an expected lifespan of 20+ years anymore. Maybe even try and get a (non mainframe) architect to listen to it. You will not change the world, but maybe, it is yet another thing that will help people realize that, even though nobody ever mentions the mainframe, they do so for a good reason. Because it simply works….”

I guess my interest in this topic arises from the perception that all new technology is developing so fast and that the mainframe is becoming more and more obsolete by the day. Here on my current project in Scandinavia, every flavour of new Payments technology from Mobile to Contactless etc. etc. is being embraced.

The capture of the transaction is like the wide end of a funnel and no matter how wide that funnel gets…..the transactions here still end up being processed miraculously rapidly on the mainframe before being bounced back to that fancy front-end.

I also found this article ‘Many of today’s “modern” apps still rely on backend mainframe systems’ which has a similar view point.

This is something that we old mainframers have to argue and contend with constantly.

We have survived the fads and fashions to date..they come, they promise, they disappear, the mainframe plods on un-noticed in the background………….God grant us another decade!!



  • By Chris Fisher

    Yes how true, the adage ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ does apply! However, as an observation I think it is not so much the Mainframe that is the factor but the applications, The Card payment systme that I know well, Base24, runs on what was regarded 25 years ago as a ‘bleeding edge mini computer’ – the Tandem – which has evolved in to the HP NonStop now regarded, and run, as a Mainframe. So i would suggest it is more the design and development processes of those systems that provides their longevity?

    • By Peter O\’ Brien

      Agreed Chris. The applications and Legacy Systems are the embedded part and are very very difficult to replace. I don\’t think we will see wide-scale re-writing of these applications in new languages as the risk in most Legacy systems would be just too great. What we get instead are new developments in more up-to-date languages interfacing with Legacy Systems…………..maybe the future is one of gradual atrophy rather than replacement of Legacy Systems………..a bit like life really!

  • By martin kelly

    There is also the fact that the traditional IBM mainframe uses world accepted protocols.
    Interconnectivity is secure and virtually un-hackable. I imagine that a lot of the \’young guns\’ aversions are not informed by an objective comparison of the \’old\’ versus the \’new\’ but simply predicated on the idea that new is better than old and whilst the newer technologies and platforms may be more fun, the objective in the business world is to put the correct figure on the bottom of the customer\’s statement, not to provide developers with new techonlogies and endless acronyms to play with.
    (BTW this was typed on my Inspiron 17R special edition laptop running a Graphics Engine :NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M GDDR5 2 using Black Hat gen with 4USB Ports :
    HDMI :1VGA :1
    Mini DisplayPort :1
    headphone/mic jack audio :1)

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