AWS Official Blog

PC2 – The New Punched Card Cloud

by Jeff Barr | on | in Amazon EC2 | | Comments

At least once per decade (I’ve been at this evangelism thing for a long time), a potential customer will ask me1 if we have ever thought of building a cloud of mainframe computers. They recognize the benefits of cloud computing, but are reluctant to give up their Job Control Language, their decks of punched cards, their flowchart templates, and the incredible sense of job security that comes along with being the world’s oldest COBOL programmer.

In order to address this customer segment, we are launching our new Punched Card Cloud, or PC2 for short.

The Hardware
The new mf (mainframe) instance family contains one member, the mf.medium. Packing a whopping 8 Megabytes of RAM and running at a breathtaking 1 MHz, you’ll happily wait for hours (if not days) for your compute-bound jobs to complete. These instances support the complete IBM 370 instruction set, including perennial favorites like the irreplaceable BALR (Branch and Link Register) and the utterly fabulous M (Multiply).

We are launching with four instances (not types, just four actual instances) in the US East (Northern Virginia) Region. If anyone uses them, we’ll go back to the junk dealer and get more.  

The Software
The PC2 is compatible with all of your favorite mainframe operating systems from the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s, but you’ll need to supply your own license. We have MMIs (Mainframe Machine Images) for OS/360, MFT, and VM/370 (my personal favorite).

You can upload, compile, and run the FORTRAN, COBOL, and PL/I programs of your choice on PC2. You can also use the AWS SDKs to call the AWS APIs:

Extended AWS Import/Export
We have extended the popular AWS Import/Export feature to handle the devices and media types common to the mainframe era. You can send card decks (be sure to use at least two rubber bands), 9-track tapes (no write enable ring needed), and the classic RAMAC 305 drives.

We’ll meet the drive at the nearest airport and escort it to the nearest Import/Export facility with white-gloved care.

Cloud Control Language
Your well-honed Job Control Language skills and your dog-eared, coffee-stained yellow card are still of value in the cloud.

The AWS Cloud Control Language gives you the power to create, manage, and destroy cloud resources using line-oriented statements specified on punch cards. Think of it as AWS CloudFormation without the elegance, lower case letters, punctuation, or JSON. 

You can launch a single EC2 instance or create an S3 bucket using less than 100 error-prone lines of CCL. If you make a trivial syntax error, your CCL deck will be rejected (after a delay of several hours), along with an inscrutable error message in your choice of Esperanto or Quechua.

Here’s the start of an example to give you an idea of what can be done with CCL:

And There You Go
The Punched Card Cloud is ready to go today and you can start using it now. Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

— Jeff;

1 – I was once asked for a “cloud of mainframes.” There were witnesses and they are willing to back me up on this.