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IBM unveils the z9

IBM's new z9 mainframe has double the capacity of its predecessor. Big Blue hopes the new box will spark zSeries revenues out of a three-quarter slide.

NEW YORK -- IBM is touting its z9 mainframe as its most sophisticated platform to date, the result of a three-year, $1.2 billion development effort involving 5,000 IBM engineers, developers and other experts.

Big Blue hopes this new super-charged T-Rex will help shake off the declining revenues of the last three quarters. IBM execs had blamed slow sales for Q2 2005 on customer anticipation of the launch.

Approximately 350 IBMers, business leaders and members of the press crammed into a presentation room at the W Hotel in Manhattan today to hear the announcement.

According to IBM, the z9 more than doubles the capacity of its predecessor (the z990) in these areas:

  • The z9 can process one billion transactions per day (versus 450 million for the z990).
  • It is 54-way (versus 32-way).
  • The machine can process 6,000 secure handshakes or transactions per second (versus 2,000 per second).
  • It boasts 60 logical partitions (LPARs) (versus 30 LPARs)
  • Also, the z9 features 17,800 MIPS (versus 9,060 MIPS), 512 GB (versus 256 GB) and 172.8 GB/second bandwidth (versus 96 GB/second).

    A fully configured, 54-way system has 18 billion transistors, the main components of microprocessors.

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    According to Diane McAdam, senior analyst and partner at the Nashua N.H.-based Data Mobility Group, this announcement emphasizes that the mainframe is alive, despite revenue speed bumps.

    "IBM is not ignoring the market at all. Open platforms were very attractive because open systems were easier to implement and cost less to operate. But the mainframe isn't going away and the industry is recognizing the mainframe's value," McAdam said.

    One of the major distinctions of the new offering, according to IBM, is the capability to secure archived data transported to alternate locations via tape. IBM hopes the new encryption technology will resonate with users that have lingering fears of data breaches due to tape loss.

    The z9 runs five operating systems and allows transport of data between 35 platforms. Bill Zeitler, senior vice president and group executive, IBM Systems and technology group said the mainframe's ability to run Linux and other modern languages is the reason it has experienced growth in recent years.

    "The z9 delivers virtualization and collaborative capabilities on a level never before seen in the computer industry," said Zeitler. "A single z9 is designed to optimize hardware, networking and software so that businesses can manage and secure workloads equivalent to thousands of distributed servers in a fraction of the space and at a low cost."

    Competitors in the high end server space were less than impressed with the announcement. Don Whitehead, director, SSG Mainframe Migration at Sun Microsystems, said these new innovations will be a burden on what he calls a shrinking customer base.

    "Revenues have been dropping for three quarters," said Whitehead. "As the customer base gets smaller, they are going to have to bear the cost of the development and innovations."

    Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Matt Stansberry, News Editor

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