The mainframe computer is not dead and helping it enjoy a healthy resurgence is its reliability and capability, a senior manager says. Hitachi Data Systems product management director Bill Tudor said a decade-long decline of mainframe sales had turned around as companies looked for more powerful and reliable systems than lower-priced servers could offer. 'In the mid-80s, mini-computers changed their names and became servers. That was a phenomenon,' he said. Companies turned to servers as a cheap alternative to mainframes only to find shortfalls, such as lack of robustness and system crashes. This was because servers lacked 'components', including safety features such as redundancy and parody checking. 'It's one thing to say you're a mainframe; it's another thing to prove it. The mainframe has bounced back in the last three years. Companies are buying [them] more than they ever did before.' He pointed to a sales rise of more than 50 per cent in 1996 compared with 1995, and predicted a healthy 25 per cent increase in annual growth over the next few years. The growing Internet commerce sector, which included home banking and electronic trade, would help fuel the demand as they also were done on mainframes, he said. Hitachi Data recently introduced 17 new models to its Pilot line and nine new models to its Skyline series of mainframe processors. A joint venture between Hitachi and Electronic Data Systems, Hitachi Data is a major rival to IBM in the mainframe business, claiming more than a 50 per cent share of Fortune 500 companies worldwide. Its clients include the Swiss Bank and American Express. Mr Tudor said the new products were more than twice as powerful as top line products offered by competitors IBM and Amdahl. The latest servers feature hardware tools to adjust for compliance in the new millennium. Time Machine, for example, helps to identify potential problem codes while Time Warp is a backup mechanism that allows the system to operate until it is completely re-programmed to 2000 compliance. Time Warp is programmed to run until 2043, but Mr Tudor warned against prolonged use and advised companies to make adjustments at the earliest opportunity. Hitachi Data North Asia sales director Greg Cornfield said regional sales were set to boom as a trend towards deregulation of the telecommunication and banking industries brought in new companies requiring powerful mainframes. 'It gives us a lot of opportunity in helping to sell our products.' Maturing countries such as South Korea and Taiwan had experienced the region's biggest sales, compared with well-established markets like Hong Kong. Mr Cornfield cited an average annual market growth in South Korea of about 40 per cent over the past few years, compared with 25 per cent in the territory. He viewed China as a potential market for sizeable growth in the next decade as the mainland economy evolved.