The polyphasic approach used today in the taxonomy and systematics of the Bacteria and Archaea includes the use of phenotypic, chemotaxonomic and genotypic data. The use of 16S rRNA gene sequence data has revolutionized our understanding of the microbial world and led to a rapid increase in the number of descriptions of novel taxa, especially at the species level. It has allowed in many cases for the demarcation of taxa into distinct species, but its limitations in a number of groups have resulted in the continued use of DNA-DNA hybridization. As technology has improved, next-generation sequencing (NGS) has provided a rapid and cost-effective approach to obtaining whole-genome sequences of microbial strains. Although some 12,000 bacterial or archaeal genome sequences are available for comparison, only 1725 of these are of actual type strains, limiting the use of genomic data in comparative taxonomic studies when there are nearly 11,000 type strains. Efforts to obtain complete genome sequences of all type strains are critical to the future of microbial systematics. The incorporation of genomics into the taxonomy and systematics of the Bacteria and Archaea coupled with computational advances will boost the credibility of taxonomy in the genomic era. This special issue of International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology contains both original research and review articles covering the use of genomic sequence data in microbial taxonomy and systematics. It includes contributions on specific taxa as well as outlines of approaches for incorporating genomics into new strain isolation to new taxon description workflows.