IBM is developing a new specialty processor for its System z9 mainframe designed to enable businesses to more easily centralize back-end workloads on the massive machines.
The zIIP (z9 Integrated Information Processor) will help enterprises free up processing power and secure data by enabling much of the data from workloads such as business intelligence, CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning) to be stored on the mainframe rather than across multiple distributed systems.
"This is really about the mainframe as your data hub across the enterprise," Colette Martin, program director for strategy and marketing for the System z unit, said in an interview following a press conference on Thursday. "Its about integrating your applications with your data."
Enterprises today keeping the data on distributed systems make copies of the data for the dispersed environment, she said. Having so many copies of the data in different places becomes a security risk, Martin said. In addition, keeping the various copies synchronized eats up a lot of processing power.
By storing the data with the mainframe and having the zIIP—rather than the general-purpose processors—run the workloads, and by enabling the z/OS operating system to act as the traffic cop and direct workloads between the zIIP and traditional processors, enterprises can increase the security of the data.
It also will free up processing power on the distributed systems, which can then be used somewhere else.
IBM also wont impose software charges on zIIP capacity, she said.
IBMs DB2 database will be the first application to take advantage of the zIIP, which will become generally available sometime this year, Martin said.
The zIIP follows other specialty processors IBM has rolled out over the past few years. In 2001, the company released the IFL (Integrated Facility for Linux) chip, dedicated to Linux workloads.
Three years later, IBM announced the zAAP (zSeries Application Assist Processor), which helped incorporate Java applications into the mainframe.
To use the zIIP, businesses will have to have a z9 109 system, z/OS 1.6 or later, and DB2 version 8, which is available now, Martin said.
Also at the conference, Bob Picciano, vice president of database servers, said the next version of DB2 for z/OS will be released later this year.
Among the enhancements will be improved XML, WebSphere and Java integration, and upgraded security by the use of Trusted Security Context and better encryption.
IBM officials are pointing to the new specialty processor as the latest step in the continued resurgence of the mainframe, a computing platform many left for dead several years ago.
Jim Stallings, IBMs new general manager of System z unit, said the key to the mainframes continued success is the improvements the Armonk, N.Y., company is making to it.
The z9, which started shipping in September, was the result of more than a billion dollars worth of work, and offers greater management and virtualization capabilities than its predecessors.
"The reason is innovation," Stallings said during the conference call. "What weve invested in this space translates into value for our customers."
In the fourth quarter last year, IBM announced that the computing capacity—measured in MIPS (millions of instructions per second)—grew 28 percent over the same period the previous year.
That same quarter also saw the highest revenue for the mainframe since the fourth quarter of 1998, Stallings said. Bob Hoey, vice president of worldwide sales for the System z, said IBM had shipped more MIPS in the past four years than it had in the previous 36 years.
A key factor is the ability to run new workloads on the mainframe, including Linux and Java tasks, business integration jobs, and business resiliency and enterprise applications, including SAP, Siebel and PeopleSoft software, Hoey said.
About 20 percent of mainframe revenues come from businesses running Linux workloads, he said.
Security also is playing a role, he added.
Other companies also are eyeing the mainframe space. Platform Solutions Inc., which is run by former Amdahl Corp. and IBM executives, this year is planning to roll out a mainframe system running on Intel Corp.s Itanium 2 processor that can run multiple operating systems, including z/OS, Linux and Microsofts Windows.
Officials with the Sunnyvale, Calif., company said they want to offer enterprises an alternative to IBMs mainframe systems that runs on industry-standard technology.
They are targeting the new systems release to coincide with Intels launch of its dual-core "Montecito" Itanium chip later this year, though they left open the possibility of coming out earlier with a system based on the current single-core processor.