The Last Mainframe at NASA: OFF For Good

NASA just powered down its last mainframe – it was an IBM Z9 running Linux (RHEAL4 or SUSE) and weighing close to two tons.

via my piece @techrepublic

Photo courtesy:

You know it’s the end of an era when even NASA doesn’t need a two ton, 58 square-foot computer — including footprint and human service space — anymore.

Crazy! The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) is powering down its last number-crunching mainframe, says NASA CIO Linda Cureton in a blog post this weekend.

The outgoing mainframe is an IBM Z9 approaching two tons and running  more  here.

Click here for the Z9 specs. The mainframe requires 58 square feet in hardware and “service aisle” space — thousands of US dollars a month, likely, in cooling and maintenance costs.

Still it’s the end of an era.

In her post, NASA CIO Linda Cureton even felt she had to define even the word — mainframe.
Another sign of the times. Here’s an excerpt:

Marshall Space Flight Center powered down NASA’s last mainframe, the IBM Z9 Mainframe. For my millennial readers, I suppose that I should define what a mainframe is. Well, that’s easier said than done, but here goes — It’s a big computer that is known for being reliable, highly available, secure, and powerful. They are best suited for applications that are more transaction oriented and require a lot of input/output – that is, writing or reading from data storage devices.

They’re really not so bad honestly, and they have their place. Things like virtual machines, hypervisors, thin clients, and swapping are all old hat to the mainframe generation though they are new to the current generation of cyber youths.

In my first stint at NASA, I was at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center as a mainframe systems programmer when it was still cool. That IBM 360-95 was used to solve complex computational problems for space flight. Back then, I comfortably navigated the world of IBM 360 Assembler language and still remember the much-coveted “green card” that had all the pearls of information about machine code. Back then, real systems programmers did hexadecimal arithmetic – today, “there’s an app for it!”

Great stuff from NASA’s Cureton on the Z 90 and its countless other mainframes of yore.

Photos courtesy: NASA