IBM Pumps Up Mainframes

Zseries gets greater storage, Linux.

IBM is extending its zSeries mainframes both literally and figuratively.

The Armonk, N.Y., company last week rolled out new models of its z990 mainframes, with greater Linux support and improved storage capabilities.

In addition, IBM is expanding its Parallel Sysplex capabilities to enable businesses to cluster as many as 32 mainframes and extending the reach from 40 kilometers to 100 km. That will be important for businesses that want to install their systems at multiple sites for business continuance reasons, officials said.

The mainframes also can now be directly attached to open storage devices, rather than being restricted to mainframe-attached storage products. IBM officials said that will enable enterprises to leverage existing storage investments as they consolidate their systems onto mainframes.

Having a combination of scale-up and scale-out systems is a way of creating a flexible and efficient IT infrastructure, IBM officials said. Businesses can decide which systems will work best for which jobs. While the scale-out capabilities in blade servers work well for such tasks as Web serving, larger scale-up systems are still best for transaction-based and database-intensive work, officials said.

At the end of the month, IBM will start shipping two new models of its z990 mainframe, code-named T-Rex. The new Model C and Model D versions will come equipped with 24 and 32 processors, respectively. New features in the two models include on/off capacity— on-demand for IBMs Linux-only processors that can run on zSeries mainframes.

As part of the rollout, IBM is also offering a rebate that can be used toward purchasing other company products, including blade servers. Businesses that buy a z990 are eligible for as much as $250,000 in rebates that can be used to buy other IBM offerings, including the companys BladeCenter blade servers, WebSphere middleware, storage devices and grid solutions.

A key part of that initiative is mixing the scale-out capabilities of blade servers with the scale-up features of larger systems, particularly mainframes. IBM recently announced its Mainframe Charter, which outlined investments the company will make in its zSeries systems.

With grid technologies and maturing management software, businesses can more easily move workloads between their scale-out and scale-up systems and increase utilization rates, officials said.

IBMs touting of its mainframes as a way of streamlining the IT infrastructure makes sense for those who can afford them, according to Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata Inc., in Nashua, N.H.

"Its certainly not the best price/performance platform out there," Haff said. "Its not for everyone, but its basically [IBM] leveraging decades of experience and development on the mainframe to offer a premium virtualization platform for those people willing and able to pay the entry price."