Mainframe era ends, city moves to the cloud

ibm1On New Year’s Eve there was an early afternoon countdown – three, two, one – before a 50-year city employee flipped a switch to turn off the city’s IBM mainframe.

With that Kansas City’s computing became entirely server and cloud-based, modern and sleek.

“It’s the end of an era,” said Carlos Valenciano, the IT senior analyst who flipped the switch.

He is also the person who first turned that mainframe on in 1995. That model 9672 followed three other IBM mainframe models that he also worked with.

They operated all the city applications like revenue, payroll, permitting, real estate, birth and death records and much more.

But Valenciano, 71, said he started working for the city before any mainframe – “I walked in before it did.” When he started in early 1963, he worked with tabulating equipment that used punch cards.

Some of those cards were exhibited like antiques on a table Tuesday not far from the soon-to-vanish mainframe at the city communications center, 1111 Locust St.

As for the mainframe, which is about six feet tall, Chief Information Officer Mary Miller said, “We’ll surplus it.”

Other cities still use them and might want parts, or maybe a collector would want it, she said.

Valenciano said he started working for the city when H. Roe Bartle was mayor and has no plans to retire.

What does he think of the new computer equipment that is sending mainframes to the land of punch cards?

“The new stuff is definitely better and faster,” he said.