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IBM to bolster mainframes with new processor

The processor is the most significant addition to the z9 since IBM launched the new mainframe nearly a year ago to help combat security leaks.

IBM plans to release later this year a new high-speed data processor it claims will enable better security on the z9, its newest mainframe.

The company says its Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) will fortify security by helping close the gap between applications and data -- centralizing information on the mainframe and minimizing the need to maintain duplicate file copies.

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The zIIP is a special-purpose engine designed specifically for the z9, aiming also to help free-up general computing capacity on the mainframe and lower software costs for database workloads such as Business Intelligence (BI), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

The processor is the most significant addition to the z9 since IBM launched the new mainframe nearly a year ago to help combat security leaks.

"This announcement is part about cost and part about performance, but mostly it's aimed at new workloads," said Clay Ryder, president of Union City, Calif.-based Sageza. "Would someone go out and buy a mainframe just to do this? I'm not convinced of that. That said, most of the big guys out there already have zSeries. This is geared toward people taking advantage of what they already have."

This is geared toward people taking advantage of what they already have.
Clay Ryder

The mainframe, long left for dead by many in the industry, has managed not only to survive, but thrive in recent years. Revenues for the zSeries jumped in 2003 and saw gains through 2004 as well. In 2005, mainframe revenues hit the skids, but many analysts attributed the dip to customers waiting for the z9 release.

"Other companies have de-invested in their chip architectures, taking things out of the system," said Jim Stallings, general manager of IBM System z, during a teleconference last week. "We've invested in the platform, and we just had our biggest quarter for MIPS (millions of instructions per second) shipped ever."

IBM's mainframe 2005 fourth quarter sales were up 5%, ending a year of consecutive revenue slumps. Total delivery of zSeries computing power (MIPS) increased 28%. The uptick is largely attributable to the z9s, which push about 40% more horsepower than the then-current high-end z990.

The zIIP processor isn't IBM's first mainframe soup-up offering. It follows others like the zAAP processor, made available in 2004 to speed-up Java applications.

And while this latest release may not seduce many new customers, IBM hopes to convince existing users that tweaking their mainframes is a worthy investment. With zSeries, you pay for the hardware and then you pay for the right to use it; zIIP will not incur additional licensing fees.

The maestro behind zIIP is the mainframe's forerunning operating system, z/OS, which will direct the work between the general processor and the zIIP. The zIIP is designed so a software program can work with z/OS to dispatch workloads to the zIIP with no anticipated changes to the application.

IBM DB2 for z/OS version 8 will be the first IBM software able to use the zIIP, which requires a System z9 109 host.

Along with zIIP, IBM officials last week also previewed the next version of DB2 for z/OS, which will appear later this year. This software is tailored to improve IBM WebSphere and Java integration for service-oriented architectures. The company says the next version will add to data protection features such as multilevel security access, centralized management of encryption keys, data intrusion detection services, and protection of data stored on tape.

"Linux and Java have further opened up the mainframes. But they've also asked us to do more," said Colette Martin, program director for System z marketing. "The zAAP was all about apps, the zIIP is all about data."

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