Published: July 24th, 2013

IBM is asking the question if your Apple iPad, Windows 8 powered tablet or your BlackBerry smartphone will be around in 50 years.

The reason Big Blue is asking this question is because 2014 will mark the 50th birthday of the IBM mainframe.

And, after more than a decade of “the mainframe is dead” articles IBM plans to celebrate the milestone.

According to IBM, the mainframe has delivered untold trillions of travel and bank transactions to consumers. The IBM System/360 mainframe were introduced to the market back in 1964 at a price tag of more than $130,000. And, the top of the line System/360 was priced at $5,500,000.

In more recent times, the upgrade IBM S/390 mainframe at the high end costs $31 million back in 1990.

More recently bankers, retailers and governments in emerging markets have discovered the benefits of this stalwart, bulletproof computer. In the past three years, IBM has sold 40 per cent of its mainframes in countries such as Africa, China, and Brazil. IBM reported last week that the mainframe business was continuing its upward trend of past years, with revenue climbing 11 per cent in the quarter.

Frank DeGilio, IBM’s chief architect for cloud computing, said at the Share Conference last year that the perception of mainframe as outmoded or inefficient is wildly inaccurate.

In fact, IBM just launched a new mainframe that’s the size of a refrigerator. The original mainframes would take up an entire room and were priced in the millions of dollars. This one starts at $75,000 and is built for the latest computing tasks that many may not associate with the mainframe, such as big data, cloud, and analytics.

This $75,000 model is called the zEnterprise BC12. It was produced from a billion dollar R&D spend from the Armonk, N.Y.-based computing powerhouse. The investment included approximately 2,500 employees working 15 million hours across 18 labs worldwide. IBM invested $50 million in the mainframe this year with features such as mobile services, fraud detection and cloud.

And, the channel also has a role. IBM business partners gave input on zEnterprise BC12 requirements. About two-thirds of all launch day sales proposals have been developed by IBM solution providers, IBM said.

IBM added that channel partners who focus on solution and consultative selling that solve clients’ business challenges have the potential to realize higher margins with these new mainframes.