Mainframes by the Numbers

Since you’ve found your way to Planet Mainframe, you probably know that mainframes are the IT workhorses of big business. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s hard to even imagine the past several decades of commerce without the mainframe doing its thing, mostly in the background, processing billions of transactions each day. 

The fact that all those transactions take place invisibly to most of us is an essential part of the mainframe’s function. Catastrophic mainframe failures happen infrequently enough that most people don’t have a clear idea of what a mainframe is. But even for people who make their livelihoods working in the world of Big Iron, the scope of mainframe workloads can be pretty mind-bending. 

So whether you’re a mainframe newbie or an old-timer who remembers vacuum tubes being replaced by magnetic core memory, we’ve put together some recent mainframe statistics that will renew your respect for this foundational piece of technology.

1. Mainframes handle 68% of the world’s production IT workloads, yet they account for what percent of IT costs?


2. Mainframes are responsible for processing how many annual ATM transactions?


3. A single z15 mainframe system can handle up to how many HTTPS transactions in a day?


4. How many of the world’s top 100 banks rely on mainframes to host their core systems?


5. Mainframes are used by what percentage of Fortune 500 companies?


6. Mainframes handle what percentage of all credit card transactions?


7. IBM’s z16 system can support up to how many terabytes of memory?


8. According to a test performed on an earthquake simulator at the University of Nevada at Reno, an IBM Z System mainframe can survive an earthquake of what magnitude on the Richter scale?


9. BMC’s annual mainframe survey has found that businesses continue to grow mainframe workloads. In 2016, 43% of organizations said the mainframe was attracting and growing new workloads; for 2023, this figure has risen to what percentage?


Sonja Soderlund is an Oregon-based B2B freelance writer. Whether writing about mainframe computers, educational technology, or sustainable retail, she strives to bring clarity to complex issues. Connect with her at or LinkedIn.

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