IBM's New 'Entry-Level' Mainframe Targets Midsize IT Shops

IBM announces a new $75,000 mainframe aimed at midsize organizations. Big Blue also announced Linux x86 blade support for its zEnterprise Systems, with Windows support coming later in the year.

A year after rolling out its breakthrough zEnterprise mainframe system, IBM has announced a new "entry-level" mainframe server to extend mainframe qualities and capabilities to more organizations, especially companies and governments in emerging markets in Asia, Africa and elsewhere.

In addition to the new mainframe, IBM also announced support for System x blades within the zEnterprise System running Linux. The company also said support for Windows will come later in the year.

The new system, the IBM zEnterprise 114-a version of the IBM zEnterprise System the company says is the most scalable mainframe ever-follows the introduction of the zEnterprise System for the world's largest banks, insurance companies and governments in July of last year. The new server-which allows mid-size organizations to enjoy the benefits of a mainframe as the foundation of their data centers-costs 25 percent less and offers up to 25 percent more performance than its predecessor, the System z10 BC server, IBM officials said.

Moreover, it is projected that clients can consolidate workloads from 40 x-86 processors running Oracle software on to a new z114 with just three processors running Linux. What's more, IBM claims, over a three year period, total costs for hardware, software and support on the new z114 can be up to 80 percent less than that of consolidated servers. Similar savings on floor space and energy are also possible, said David Gelardi, vice president of sales support and education for IBM's Systems and Technology Group, in an interview with eWEEK.

"We're seeing great progress in the market with the mainframe, especially in emerging countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and South America," Gelardi said.

At a starting price of less than $75,000-IBM's lowest price ever for a mainframe server-the zEnterprise 114 is an especially attractive option for emerging markets experiencing rapid growth in new services for banking, retail, mobile devices, government services and other areas, Gelardi said. These organizations are faced with ever-increasing torrents of data and want smarter computing systems that help them operate efficiently, better understand customer behavior and needs, optimize decisions in real time, and reduce risk.

"This is a business-class machine-a smaller version of the mainframe to attract clients who require a mainframe but have somewhat smaller needs" than the largest enterprise organizations, Gelardi said.

IBM also introduced new features that allow the zEnterprise System to integrate with, and manage workloads on, additional platforms. This includes new support for select System x blades within the zEnterprise System. These select System x blades can run Linux x86 applications unchanged, and in the future will be able to run Windows applications. With these capabilities, the zEnterprise System, including the new z114, can help simplify data centers with its ability to manage workloads across mainframe, Power7 and System x servers as a single system. Using the IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX), customers can also extend mainframe qualities, such as governance and manageability, to workloads running across multiple platforms, IBM officials said.

Gelardi said the resurgence IBM has witnessed with the mainframe comes not only from existing customers but also from new clients, who like the flexibility of the system. For instance, Gelardi said one client mentioned the advantages of the zEnterprise System's "multiple personality" capabilities.