IBM boosts performance, energy efficiency of new z10 mainframe

IBM boosts performance, energy efficiency of new z10 mainframe

IBM’s z10 mainframe optimized for CPU-intensive jobs, virtualization security

IBM's next-generation mainframe unveiled Tuesday is 50% faster than its predecessor and can double performance for CPU-intensive jobs, while offering dramatic improvements in energy efficiency, according to Big Blue.

"The aspect here is more bang for the buck. It's bigger, faster, cheaper," says Forrester analyst Brad Day.

The System z10 mainframe, successor to the z9, is a 64-processor machine using quad-core technology that supports workloads such as Linux, XML, Java, IBM's WebSphere software, and key service-oriented architecture processes. IBM has also partnered with Sun to optimize the Open Solaris operating system on the mainframe.

"A single System z10 is the equivalent of nearly 1,500 distributed servers, with up to an 85% smaller footprint, and 85% lower energy costs," IBM states in a press release. "It can consolidate x86 software licenses at up to a 30-to-1 ratio."

IBM spent US$1.5 billion and five years developing the z10, and was bullish on the results, calling it the "most sophisticated piece of information technology ever built for any purpose." IBM's mainframe sales dropped 10% last year, but were still robust enough to give Big Blue more revenue than any other server vendor in the world, according to Gartner.

"It's still a relevant platform and IBM has done a pretty good job of keeping it that way," says Gartner analyst Adrian O'Connell.

Last year's dip in mainframe orders can likely be attributed to customers waiting for the new system, Day says.

"IBM took a bath in the space because the customers were on to this announcement. There was a leak," Day says.

In addition to faster performance, the z10 boosts capacity by 70% over its predecessor. The z10 has a more balanced design, allowing for a greatly enhanced ability to handle computing-intensive workloads, according to Day. Adoption of Java on the mainframe has taken off in the past two years, which explains IBM's emphasis on supporting Java workloads, he adds.

In addition to satisfying the legacy base, IBM seems intent on marketing the mainframe as an alternative to midframe or mid-range servers, Day says. He expects a  "baby mainframe" to be available within six months at a lower price point. In the past, IBM has sold these stripped-down versions of the mainframe for between US$150,000 and US$200,000, he says.

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