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To me, it seems as though "mainframe" is a somewhat dated term; is it simply an older synonym of "server," or does it server a purpose more similar to a cluster/supercomputer?

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closed as off topic by Robert Harvey, Jimmy Hoffa, World Engineer Mar 25 '13 at 22:46

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A mainframe is a type of computer hardware. A server is a computer dedicated to providing services. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mainframe_computer and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Server_(computing) –  Robert Harvey Mar 25 '13 at 22:31
    
But, aren't mainframe systems generally used to provide services as well? –  at least three characters Mar 25 '13 at 22:37
    
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A mainframe is designed for processing large amounts of information by the use of batch transaction processing. It particularly works well at running scalable software and dealing with massively parallel operations. Everything about mainframes is screamingly fast. Mainframes are typically built by IBM and usually run z/OS.

A server (when referred to in the hardware sense) is a PC with higher reliability / quality parts and runs usually a *NIX variant, or Windows Server.

Mainframes can run software services, such as JEE application servers, web servers, etc. They are designed to accommodate the concurrent use of hundreds or thousands of users in addition to their batch processing load.

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