OEMs and chip makers are preparing high-end technology that offers customers computing environments that are more secure and easier to manage.
IBM and Unisys Corp. are upgrading their respective mainframe platforms with systems that come with new virtualization and security features. In addition, Intel Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. have begun introducing their high-end chip technologies, preparing the industry for their general release early next year.
IBM and Unisys officials said mainframe security and manageability features remain attractive to enterprises running mission-critical applications. Mainframes ability to adapt to new environments has also been key to their longevity, said William Zeitler, senior vice president and group executive for IBMs Systems and Technology Group.
"The reason the mainframes have grown over the last four or five years is their ability to run new workloads [such as Linux]," Zeitler said at an event here last week introducing IBMs latest mainframe, the z9.
The z9, which cost IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., $1.2 billion to develop over the past three years, offers twice the performance and memory capacity of the current z990. In addition, the z9 has 60 percent more processor capacity and 80 percent more internal bandwidth.
Key to the new system are enhanced virtualization and encryption capabilities. The z9 can create up to 60 logical partitions—twice as many as the z990 can. In addition, the z9 can encrypt data throughout the system, as opposed to simply on the processor, increasing the security of consumer identities and personal data.
Bob Shannon, chairman and member of the Chicago-based IBM user group Share Inc. and a mainframe user, said IBM has done well in driving down the cost of the mainframes while increasing their capabilities. "Theyve improved the cost/performance ratio," Shannon said.
Unisys officials said they want to make their mainframes more accessible to customers. The Blue Bell, Pa., company last week unveiled a line of ClearPath Libra systems that offers a host of new features, and the vendor will upgrade its Dorado line later this year.
Among ClearPath Libras new features is greater security for Java-based applications. Unisys is easing management by offering policy-based provisioning.
Through these initiatives, users can manage the systems and storage based on preset business rules, making the mainframes more responsive to business needs, officials said.
Unisys later this year will offer a pay-per-service pricing plan that officials said is more aligned with a customers business results, based on metrics such as the number of accounts a bank handles or policies an insurance company underwrites. A customer is given more capacity than needed and pays only for additional capacity as the business grows.
Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., has begun seeding the industry with its dual-core server chips, including the 64-bit Itanium 2 processor, code-named Montecito, which is scheduled for general release early next year.