Advantages and Disadvantages of Mainframe Computer

Definition of Mainframe Computer :-

          Mainframe computers have been around since the 1960s, but they are still used by many large organizations today. Mainframes are powerful, reliable, and secure  but they also have some drawbacks compared to smaller, more modern computer systems. This article will examine the key advantages and disadvantages of mainframe computers to help you decide if a mainframe is right for your business.

What is a Mainframe Computer?

A mainframe is a large, powerful computer system designed to handle very high volumes of data processing. The term originally referred to the large cabinet containing the central processor unit and main memory of early computers, but now it refers to the whole data processing system including storage, networking, and software.

Mainframes are primarily used by large organizations for critical applications like high-volume transaction processing, enterprise resource planning, statistics, accounting and other data intensive computing tasks. The ability to process huge amounts of transactions securely and efficiently makes mainframes ideally suited for industries like banking, insurance, utilities and telecommunications.

Some examples of well-known mainframe systems include the IBM Z Series, Unisys Clear Path Dorado Series, Hitachi AP Series, and Oracle Sparc Series.

Key Advantages of Mainframe Computers:-

1.Processing Power

The biggest advantage of mainframes is their massive processing power. Mainframe CPUs have much higher processor speeds and more computational power than even the best modern servers.

A single mainframe can replace dozens or hundreds of smaller servers, consolidating computing power into one centralized machine. This makes them ideal for real-time transactions and other data intensive tasks.


Mainframe computers excel in their scalability. As organizations grow and their data processing needs increase, mainframes can handle these increased workloads without the need for additional hardware. They can support millions of users and applications, making them an ideal choice for large businesses with heavy computing demands.


Mainframes are famous for their reliability. These machines are designed to be fault-tolerant and run continuously without failure, offering an impressive uptime that is often measured in years. This reliability makes mainframes ideal for applications and processes where downtime can have serious implications, such as banking transactions or airline reservations.


When it comes to security, few can match the mainframe. These computers have robust built-in security measures, making them highly resistant to hacking and other cyber threats. With data breaches becoming increasingly common and costly, the security of mainframes is a significant advantage.


In terms of the amount of processing power they provide, mainframes are cost-effective. They can handle large workloads that would require a significant number of servers, thereby saving on space, power, and cooling costs.

 6.Legacy Support

Mainframes support older legacy applications and programming languages like COBOL. Organizations can preserve legacy systems and custom applications without rewriting code when they use a mainframe.

This legacy support enables continuity for critical historical data. It also avoids the cost of re-platforming legacy apps which would provide little additional business value.

Disadvantages of Mainframe Computer

Despite the advantages, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider when it comes to mainframe computing. The disadvantages of Mainframe Computer are as follows:


The biggest disadvantage of mainframes is their steep cost. The hardware, software, maintenance and specialist admin staff all add up to a huge price tag. Only large enterprises with high data volumes can justify the expense.

Mainframe CPUs alone can cost over 100,000. Add specialized OS and database software, maintenance fees and expert staff, and costs routinely hit 1 million or more. Cost of ownership is estimated to be 4-5 times higher than distributed servers.

2.Vendor Lock-In

Mainframe computing is dominated by just a few vendors like IBM, Unisys and Hitachi. Once an organization selects a vendor, switching to a new platform requires migration of all software and data. This creates a type of vendor lock-in situation.

If a vendor discontinues a mainframe product line or raises prices, the customer has little leverage. Migration to a new mainframe costs millions and takes years of effort.


Mainframes are complex machines that require specialized knowledge and skills to operate and maintain. This can increase the total cost of ownership, as organizations may need to invest in additional training or hire specialized staff.

4.Limited Flexibility

While mainframes are excellent at what they do, they are not always the most flexible machines. They are designed for specific tasks and may not be suitable for organizations with more diverse computing needs.

5.Limited Availability

The mainframe market is not as diverse as that of personal computers or servers. There are fewer manufacturers and models to choose from, which can make sourcing parts and finding skilled technicians more challenging.

advantages and disadvantages of mainframe computer

Key Use Cases for Mainframe Computers

While mainframes may not be suitable for all workloads, they provide unparalleled capabilities for certain core business functions:

  • Transaction Processing – Mainframes excel at handling high volumes of real-time transactions for operations like banking, airlines, and insurance.
  • Batch Processing – Batch jobs like billing, payroll, and statements can be run efficiently on mainframes.
  • Enterprise Resource Planning – Mainframes are well suited to ERP systems which require accessing large databases of company-wide data.
  • Customer Management – Call centers, customer service systems and logistics coordination depend on mainframes.
  • Legacy Applications – Older custom software and legacy programming languages like COBOL are still best run on mainframes.

Mainframe Alternatives

For smaller companies or less critical workloads, distributed systems or cloud platforms may provide sufficient capabilities at lower costs:

  • Server Farms – A group of networked servers housing web, application, database, and file servers. Can be on-premise or hosted in a colocation facility.
  • Cloud Computing – Virtualized, scalable computing resources provided over the internet. Options include IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.
  • Parallel Computing – Breaking up programs to run them concurrently on multiple servers which each have their own CPUs.
  • Grid Computing – Linking multiple computers from distributed locations into one large system which can tackle big tasks.

Conclusion: Weighing the Pros and Cons

Mainframes continue to play a key role in foundational business computing, although usage has declined. They still reign supreme for tasks like high-volume transaction processing due to their performance, scalability, reliability and security.

However, the disadvantages like vendor lock-in, legacy skills requirements, and costs make mainframes unsuitable for many modern workloads. Cheaper open systems and cloud platforms tend to be better options for analytics, mobile, IoT and machine learning applications.

For organizations that still rely on mainframes, the priority is finding ways to integrate them with modern innovations through tools like emulation software and middleware. This provides the best of both worlds – leveraging legacy systems while also adopting next-gen technologies.

When evaluating mainframe needs, carefully weigh the benefits against the costs and limitations. Seek to maximize value of existing systems, while complementing them with newer platforms. With the right strategy, mainframes and modern solutions can work together to meet all an organization’s computing needs.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Mainframe Computer FAQs

  • What is the primary advantage of mainframes computers?
    The biggest advantage of mainframe computers is their massive processing power. Mainframe CPUs have much higher processor speeds and more computational power than even the best modern servers. A single mainframe can replace dozens or hundreds of smaller servers, consolidating computing power into one centralized machine.
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of micro computers?
    Advantages of microcomputers compared to mainframes include lower cost, greater flexibility, easier upgrades, and support for modern applications. Disadvantages include less processing power, lower security, and inability to handle huge workloads.
  • What are the six uses of mainframe computers?
    The six key uses of mainframe computers are:
    1. High-volume transaction processing
    2. Batch processing of large jobs
    3. Enterprise resource planning systems
    4. Customer relationship management systems
    5. Legacy application support
    6. Massive database management
  • What is a mainframe computer?
    A mainframe computer is a large, powerful computer system designed for high-volume, processor-intensive workloads. Mainframes feature multiple CPUs and the ability to scale computing power as needed. They are used by major enterprises and institutions for critical applications that require security, high availability, and transaction processing. The centralized architecture of mainframes distinguishes them from smaller servers and distributed systems.


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