IBM, Unisys Broaden Reach of Mainframe Systems

IBM and Unisys Corp. are extending their respective mainframe systems with enhancements that will answer enterprises' growing workload demands.

IBM and Unisys Corp. are extending their respective mainframe systems with enhancements that will answer enterprises growing workload demands.

IBM, which next week celebrates the 40th anniversary of its first mainframe, will enhance its zSeries systems by extending the range of its Parallel Sysplex cluster technology and adding specialized engines, said Erich Clementi, zSeries general manager.

By the end of the year, the Armonk, N.Y., company will roll out new versions of its z800 and z990 systems, Clementi said. Among the enhancements on IBMs road map that could be ready for those systems is the extended Parallel Sysplex capability, a data-sharing technology that enables multiple systems in different locations to share the same systems image. IBM will push the maximum separation from 40 kilometers to 100 kilometers, an important move for enterprises that dont want to keep all these mission-critical processes in a single location in case of a disaster.

Clementi said IBM will offer specialized engines for the mainframes similar to the Linux engine the company introduced last year. The new engines could focus on Java and XML-based workloads, but Clementi declined to say when these enhancements would appear.

Unisys, of Blue Bell, Pa., this week will roll out the 500 line of ClearPath Plus Libra mainframes. The systems will come in a modular, building-block architecture that will enable users to choose individual 4U (7-inch) modules depending on the operating system, processors and pricing they want. The 520, 580 and 590 servers can run either Unisys MCP operating system on its CMOS processors or Intel Corp.s Xeon chips, or the Windows operating system on Xeon or Itanium 2 processors.

The 590 also comes with Unisys new pay-per-use model, which the company will expand into its entire Libra line and eventually into its Dorado line of mainframes. Users can set a monthly mips (million instructions per second) usage limit and bring on more capacity via a software key if needed, officials said.

Community First Bankshares Inc. runs its mission-critical applications on a Unisys mainframe and aggregates data gathered from 155 branches in 12 states. CIO Dan Fisher said he is pleased to see Unisys come out with a pay-per-use pricing model.

"If a guy could purchase more capacity if something is broken, that would be something we could use," said Fisher in Fargo, N.D.

Mainframe sales have been on the rise. IBM saw its mainframe revenues increase 6 percent last year, to about $4.2 billion, according to IDC, of Framingham, Mass. "The mainframe is still good for certain kinds of workloads, and people are still buying them," said Steve Josselyn, an analyst with IDC.