Big Blues Product Rollout Continues With zSeries 900

IBM's hardware business may be hurting, but the technology giant keeps rolling out new and improved products.

IBMs hardware business may be hurting, but the technology giant keeps rolling out new and improved products.

Today, the company announced upgrades to its zSeries 900 mainframe computer that will increase processing speeds, provide better security and allow better use of Linux. The rollout comes just two weeks after IBM released its p690 eServer based on the new Regatta chip.

"We have essentially raised the bar a bit higher with our mainframe technology as we invest in virtualization, self-managing capabilities and other technologies that result in reduced costs of ownership for our customers," said Peter McCaffrey, IBMs program director for zSeries product marketing.

McCaffrey said the new server will be able to handle up 3,850 secure Internet transactions per second, nearly doubling the machines previous capacity. The server will also contain a new technology, dubbed HiperSockets. HiperSockets is a TCP/IP local area network protocol that will allow all of the virtual servers on the mainframe to talk to each other without having to go onto an external network.

"HiperSockets is important," said John Phelps, Gartners vice president and research director. Phelps believes the technology will reduce the amount of hardware that I-managers will need to handle their networking. "If you are going to have multiple systems residing on one system, HiperSockets will speed up communication, and it reduces networking complexity dramatically."

The security upgrades include improvements to the mainframes operating system, the z/OS. The system has additional intrusion detection capabilities that scan incoming data for threats and give protection against flooding and denial-of-service attacks. The technologies are part of IBMs Project eLiza effort to make computers more self-managing.

The new server could help bolster IBMs flagging hardware revenue, which fell 21 percent, to $7.5 billion, in the third quarter. Particularly hard hit were PC sales and original equipment microelectronics. For example, IBMs laptop sales fell 28 percent and desktops fell 30 percent. Revenue from the companys Intel-based servers fell 25 percent.

But Big Blue sees greener pastures in the mainframe business. Although the company hasnt released revenue amounts, McCaffrey said that the company has had "double-digit revenue growth" in mainframes in each of the last four quarters. The move toward mainframes is being driven by customers that want to consolidate their server farms into central locations with smaller footprints. IBM said the zSeries 900s new virtualization software allows it to be configured into multiple virtual servers, giving I-managers the ability to replace hundreds, or even thousands, of rack-mounted servers. That consolidation could help companies reduce the complexity of their IT operations, while also reducing energy consumption.

Saving money on electricity wont be cheap, though. The base model of the new zSeries 900 will sell for $750,000 and be capable of 200 million instructions per second.

The zSeries 900 will compete directly against Sun Microsystems latest high-end Unix server, the Sun Fire 15K, as well as Hewlett-Packards newest Unix server, Superdome. "IBM is positioning the zSeries 900 to be a major player in e-business transactions," Phelps said. "And with all their improvements, they are making mainframes a more viable option for more customers."