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IBM ‘shrinks’ the mainframe to offer the cheapest price ever, targets smaller firms

After consolidating its position in the very top-end of the power-computing market, IBM has now moved to bring the power of mainframes to the mid-range. It announced the launch of a new “affordable” mainframe targeted at both the mid-end and the emerging markets, called the z114 system.

In its announcement of mini mainframes for the mid-range customers, IBM too seemed keen to widen its market to companies that have seen their server requirements expand to tens or scores of servers sitting side by side. Many companies, especially on the web and in finance, have to hire dozens, if not hundreds of individual servers in server farms to get their work done today.

The z114, the new system introduced today, can have up to 14 processors, compared to the 80 supported by its bigger brother announced a year ago. The big brother, the z196, supports a RAM of 3 TB (~3,000 GB), compared to the 192 GB that a Windows x86 server can theoretically support.

IBM has found itself in the felicitous position of being in the right place at the right time as computing comes back to large warehouses, thanks to the cloud. IBM’s eclipse as a hardware player was caused by computing and computers moving from large halls to the living room, thanks to apple, Intel and Windows.

Unlike the early years, nearly all the new customers of IBM mainframes do not run their applications in the native operating system – the zOS, but run a linux or Windows server on top of it and then deploy the application on the very top.

The company, it seems, is in full mood to take advantage of the transition, pointing out that if it is big computing power that is needed, it is better to use a mainframe than string together a series of low power servers.

“Clients can consolidate workloads from 40 Oracle server cores on to a new z114 with just three [of 14] processors running Linux [on the new z114]. Compared to the Oracle servers the new z114 costs 80% less with similar dramatic savings on floor space and energy,” it said.

“The new z114 can also consolidate more than 300 HP Proliant servers running Oracle workloads,” it added.

Even more than hardware costs, energy and space costs are the biggest challenges facing the world-wide computing, communication and data industry. As the Internet invades into more and more spheres, the amount of data that needs to be processed rises exponentially, stretching the concept of ‘server farms’ to its limit.

IBM is pitching the z114 at emerging markets for industries such as banking, retail, mobile devices, government services etc..

It also announced an “integrated” monitoring and control mechanism for traditional servers through its mainframe.

” With these capabilities, the zEnterprise System including the new z114 can help simplify data centers with its ability to manage workloads across mainframe, POWER7 and System x servers as a single system.

“Using the zEnterprise Blade Center Extension (zBX), customers can also extend mainframe qualities, such as governance and manageability, to workloads running across multiple platforms,” it said, pitching a new integration system called zEnterprise System.

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