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Complete 360

After 45 years, innovation brings the mainframe full circle.

After 45 years, innovation brings the mainframe full circle.
Photography by Chip Williams

When IBM introduced the System/360* mainframe, it was named for the number of degrees in a circle and was meant to “encompass every need of every user.”

George Walsh, System z* vice president and chief technology officer, has watched the mainframe come full circle in his nearly 44 years with IBM. IBM Systems Magazine, Mainframe edition recently sat down with Walsh to learn about his involvement in the platform and the innovation he continues to see.

Q: How did you first get involved with IBM and this project that’s grown over the years?

A: I joined IBM almost 44 years ago in New York City. It was just after the announcement of the System/360. My original mission was help on the non-mainframe things while people were being trained on mainframes. Ultimately, I took almost three years of education; that was the training required at the time to understand the new OS, the new architecture, the new systems.

My first real mainframe customer was Con Edison power company in New York. It was amazing to see the things the mainframe could do for Con Ed. One of the very first things they did on the mainframe was essentially support customer service. That need grew into Customer Information Control System (CICS*), which is today the most used system, still running the most transactions in the world. It was a very interesting environment and a very innovative customer.

Some lessons were learned along the way; the first systems weren’t as reliable as we wanted. There was a 24-hour outage and the customers were so mad they created a riot and actually burned down a Con Edison branch office. That instilled in me very early the importance of extreme reliability and availability and it stuck with me my whole career.

“The mainframe continues to evolve very substantially and has since its inception 45 years ago.”—George Walsh, System z vice president and chief technology officer

Natalie Boike is a former IBM Systems Magazine managing editor.


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