The IBM System z10 Business Class mainframe is a smaller version of the massive, $1 million System z10 mainframe computer that IBM brought to the enterprise market in the first half of 2008. The IBM System z10 Business Class mainframe offers a number of features similar to the full-size mainframe plus the ability to run either the IBM z/OS operating system or Linux. The IBM System z10 Business Class mainframe starts at $100,000, according to Big Blue.
IBM is looking to pack all the power of its full-size mainframe
system into a smaller, lower-priced package when its releases the IBM
System z10 Business Class mainframe on Oct. 21.
System z10 Business Class is the lower-cost and smaller version of the full-size, $1 million System z10 mainframe that IBM released in February.
The release of the System z10 Business Class is IBM's second attempt at
offering a lower-cost mainframe to attract new types of customers to
Big Blue's signature computer system. Three year ago, IBM released the
z9 Business Class for smaller enterprises and businesses in the
At a starting cost of $100,000, the IBM System z10 Business Class is
not designed for small business, but IBM does believe that this type of
mainframe system is an attractive offer for those smaller enterprises
and midmarket companies looking to consolidate Linux workloads running
on multiple x86 systems onto one large machine. At a fraction of the
cost of a traditional mainframe, the Business Class systems are also a
way for IBM to optimize its offering around price, while trying to
attract new customers.
"In general, IBM puts a lot of effort and energy into essentially
optimizing around price," said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata.
"This allows IBM to get newer workloads and new customers onto the
mainframe without giving away the store. IBM has its traditional base,
which is willing to pay more, so that's why you have all of this action
around the different types of engines around different types of
IBM plans to sell the Business Class mainframe through its channel
partners, unlike the full-size mainframe, which is sold directly to
The IBM System z10 Business Class mainframe offers many of the same
features as a full-fledged mainframe system. However, those features
are scaled down to help reduce costs. For example, the Business Class
machines support 10 processing cores, compared with the 64 cores that
are used in a full-size mainframe. (IBM uses a special proprietary
microprocessor with all of its mainframes.)
In addition, the Business Class mainframe can support up to 30
logical partitions, or LPARs, for virtualization. A full-size system
supports double the LPARs. Other features remain similar such as
IBM has worked to make its DS8000 disk storage and TS7700 tape
storage systems compatible with the Business Class mainframe. A number
of third-party tape and disk storage systems also work the mainframe.
For the operating system, the Business Class mainframe can run
either the traditional z/OS operating system or what IBM calls z/Linux,
or Linux on System z. The Business Class mainframe will also offer
120GB of main system memory, and IBM will boost that to 248GB in June
The fact that IBM is offering a variation of Linux, along with "specialty engine" processors that allow the mainframe to run SAP
or Java workloads, helps the company make the argument that this is a
consolidation system and worth an investment instead of continuing to
buy industry-standard x86 servers.
David Gelardi, vice president of IBM's STG Worldwide Client Centers,
said that the way businesses choose their applications now helps make
the mainframe a much more attractive tool for consolidation projects,
especially when Linux is added into the equation.
"You increasingly have one or two layers of abstraction between the
application and the underlying, physical hardware," said Gelardi.
"The tooling that is used today, the types of Java environments that
are used, are much more portable, and therefore you don't have the type
of lock-in of building up," Gelardi added. "When people used to buy
mainframes, they started with the hardware and then some tools ... and
then they built their application on top. In the distributed world, you
start the other way around, where you pick your application first. What
Linux has done is given that top-down capability to the mainframe
world. We have taken those capabilities and brought them down market."
The IBM System z10 Business Class mainframe is available to customers on Oct. 28.
Editor's Note: This article was updated to clarify the date
that the System z10 Business Class is available to customers.