The power of traditional mainframe technology

Mainframes are still much more powerful than virtualized distributed systems clusters.


The power of the mainframe

IBM technician Asia Dent, based in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., tests the world's fastest microprocessor at the heart of IBM's newest zEnterprise System mainframes. The new chip helps deliver processor speeds of 5.2 GHz. Image courtesy of Feature Photo Service for IBM.

Mainframes are still orders of magnitude more powerful than even the largest virtualized distributed systems clusters. For example, IBM’s most recent z196 system microprocessors run at 5.2 GHz, while today’s commodity processors run between 2 and 3.4 GHz. A single z/VM in version 6.1 can accommodate more than 60 virtual machines per CPU; a fully loaded zEnterprise cabinet can hold four modules, each containing six quad-core processors and up to 786 GB of memory with four levels of cache; and the full system can address more than 3 TB of memory and support thousands of concurrent workloads, in many cases running at (or close to) 100% utilization.

Each mainframe operating system (OS) can theoretically host somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 users, depending on the mix of workloads. The mainframe is also still regarded as the gold standard when it comes to batch jobs -- up to 100,000 of which can be run in a day within the same OS.

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