What is Multiple Virtual Storage (MVS)?

MVS, which stands for Multiple Virtual Storage, is one of the oldest operating systems developed by IBM and distant relative of what we nowadays call DOS. MVS has its own programming language, JCL (Job Control Language). Four decades after MVS was created (1974), JCL is still heavily used to run applications in mainframes (IBM 360 pictured below) and the technology, in general, remains king although considered by many as obsolete technology.

By Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F038812-0014 / Schaack, Lothar / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5455799

By the way, there is an old joke in the field where a COBOL (developed by the late United States Navy Rear Admiral Grace "Amazing Grace" Murray Hopper pictured below, first released on 1959 by CODASYL, latest stable release 2014) program needs to be fixed, but the person who wrote it is already dead. This is one reason many large companies like Fortune 100, banks, insurers, telecommunication providers, retailers and airlines prefer not to move away from mainframes and MVS.

By Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57587522

This is also a reason why some programmers learn languages like COBOL (the most commonly used) since there is always the possibility that an old program could break. These programmers can make good money on a single job. It is a good thing my brother is a COBOL programmer and university CIS professor.

Where I work the mainframe is about to be retired later this year in favor of PeopleSoft (Oracle backend) after years of employees complaining that the PeopleSoft system is not as good as the obsolete program used to retrieve data and run reports for almost thirty (30) years — not to mention the seven-figure bill for development. In some way, MVS is a dear technology of mine as I enjoyed writing scripts in REXX (Restructured Extended Executor, first released in 1979 by IBM, latest stable release in 1996).

The following table shows the history of MVS as per the book Understanding Operating Systems (ISBN 9780534503536) by Ida Flynn.


Nowadays the biggest vendor of COBOL related products in Micro Focus, which emulates an MVS environment including the need to run JCL jobs.

If you would like to test MVS, you can use OpenVMS by HP or FreeVMS in a .VDI.