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Mainframers meet zEnterprise with wait-and-see approach

Ryan Arsenault and Jeannette Beltran, Staff

BOSTON -- While IBM has touted its new zEnterprise z196 mainframe system as the next big thing in data center computing, mainframers have taken a wait-and-see approach.

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The zEnterprise mainframe marries workloads on mainframe, Power7 and System x servers and enables them to share resources and be managed as a single virtualized system from a mainframe management console.

Big Blue unveiled the new mainframe -- which IBM describes as a "system of systems" -- in New York last month, and showed it off at the Share conference in Boston on Monday.

Karl Fruend, IBM's VP of System z strategy and marketing, touted zEnterprise with much fanfare, comparing the release with the Internet's impact during the 1990s.

Expected to ship in September, the zEnterprise 196 comes with a hefty starting price tag of $1 million. Fruend, though, was quick to shoot down the notion that mainframes are too expensive with a you-get-what-you-pay-for response. Fruend noted that IBM opted to fly him to the conference from Austin, Texas.

"I could have taken a Greyhound bus to get here," Fruend noted. "While the cost of the airplane is more expensive, it's a lot more effective in getting people from point A to point B. Yes it's more expensive … but what does it do for the business?"

Share conference attendee Mark Neft, who works for a large-scale systems integrator, took note of the potential efficiencies of the zEnterprise.

"It's about time to have the three worlds [Unix, Linux and mainframes] meet and put them under a common umbrella," Neft said. "I see this as a disruptive solution in a positive way – to help IT organizations create a focal point [for their IT architecture]."

Neft further predicted that the zEnterprise would have the greatest impact on system integrators and Fortune 100 companies that want to simplify the process of managing separate systems to run a business. A unified ecosystem, Neft said, can take an organization's x86 applications and colocate them where data resides.

While other attendees expressed support for the zEnterprise, they didn't approve of all the bells and whistles touted by IBM. Bruce Minton of CSC Computer Services is interested purely in the fact that the z196 is a mainframe and in the opportunities for consolidation and power savings that it provides.

"I'm a mainframe guy," said Bruce Minton of CSC Computer Services. "All the blade stuff doesn't do a whole lot for me."

Jim Reid, a z/OS systems programmer at TV network QVC Inc., also likes the z196 – his company is powered by three mainframes – but QVC will take a wait-and-see approach.

"For us to jump on z196 right away … this may take a little time to feel out if it will be successful," said Reid, who noted that he'd like to see zEnterprise deployment success stories at the next Share conference.

Let us know what you think about this feature; email Executive Editor Matt Stansberry at  mstansberry@techtarget.com.


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