IBM Sees its T-Rex Hatch

by Clint Boulton

IBM's new 32-processor mainframe is targeted at a select group of new and existing high-end customers in the financial services industry.

IBM Tuesday launched a new 32-processor mainframe targeted at a select group of new and existing high-end customers in the financial services industry.

The highly-anticipated zSeries z990 server, known for months to the computing world as T-Rex, was unveiled at a launch event in San Francisco. As previously reported, the z990 features much more power than the previous z900 mainframe, which holds 16 processors.

z990 may handle 450 million transactions a day and support up to 30 partitions of the company's mainframe operating system, or hundreds or even thousands of virtual Linux servers in a single box. It also features Big Blue's Intelligent Resource Director (IRD) technology, which automatically moves system resources to the workloads that need them.

In addition to Linux, the z990 also will run Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE), version 1.3 and support the Web services standards included in J2EE 1.4, such as UDDI (define) and SOAP (define).

Priced at $1 million, early z990 versions A08 and B16 will be available on June 16 with models C24 and D32 available on October 31. On/Off Capacity on Demand functionality will be available in September 2003.

Illuminata Senior Analyst Gordon Haff told internetnews.com the way IBM is couching the new mainframe is a break from "traditional mainframe speak." Haff said they are positioning the machine as more of an on-demand product, consistent with their overarching e-business on-demand strategy.

"IBM is taking the mainframe out of the legacy box and putting it back into the data center," Haff said.

"The availability of mainframe on demand services marks a new era in data center delivery for our customers," said Jim Corgel, general manager, IBM e-business hosting services.

The z990 comes at a time when firms are ramping up lower-end Unix- and Intel-based models that have "mainframe-like" capabilities. Mid-ranged servers have become an attractive alternative because they can perform many of the functions of mainframes at a fraction of the cost, thanks to 64-bit processing capabilities of Unix and the Windows Server 2003.

"But this is not to overstate [z990's] strength and say Unix and Windows will go away," Haff said, noting that "you still need specialized skills for the mainframe."

Even Unisys, the last major mainframe rival of IBM, has a new ES7000/500 series, which are equipped with the more powerful Datacenter edition of Windows Server 2003. Moreover, IBM competitors Sun and HP have already been having field days with the T-Rex name, hinting at the mainframe's extinction to anyone who will listen as they continue to hawk their Unix and Intel servers. Still, while mainframes, many of which top the $1 million mark, are undercut by less expensive Unix and Intel servers, many experts praise the reliability of the refrigerator-sized machines: they crash less under duress.

Don Whitehead, director of Mainframe Rehosting at Sun Microsystems, runs a division entirely suited to help customers move from mainframes to Sun systems. He agreed it is difficult to quibble with the security and reliability of mainframes, but said the price differential has helped his company migrate 1,000 customers to Sun's Unix-based systems in the last couple of years.

"A lot of companies have exited or moved away from mainframes as their legacy transaction environments to lower their costs," Whitehead said. "We kind of ho-hummed it when we saw that they said they would eventually scale to 64 processors and with the z990 in the future when our current generation [of hardware] already does that."

This article was originally published on Wednesday May 14th 2003
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