IBM has unveiled its new mainframe system, the first generation of the supplier's flagship server specifically designed to support its on-demand computing strategy.
The z990, the successor to the z900, is the result of a four-year $1bn investment, and will be ready to ship to customers by the end of next month.
The system is three times more powerful than IBM's previous largest server, and offers a 60 per cent increase in processing capability, supporting up to 11,000 secure transactions per second, according to Big Blue.
The z990 is built from up to four eight-processor modules connected together to offer up to 32 processors in the largest system.
The server supports up to 30 hardware partitions, with thousands of virtual servers supported through software partitioning.
Improvements to the operating software extend the ability for users to vary the amount of capacity they need by turning processors on and off at will, and only paying for the power they actually use.
IBM claims that users are increasingly using mainframes for new applications.
"Seventy per cent of the capacity shipped for the mainframe last year was for new workloads, and 20 per cent of capacity was to support Linux," said Doug Neilson, systems consultant at IBM's server group.
IBM Global Services will use the z990 to offer a new 'virtual server' hosting service, providing access to mainframe-levels of security and reliability without purchasing hardware.
And the technology and services for the z990 will be gradually introduced into IBM's smaller servers, so that the new mainframe will set the standard for the supplier's products over the next few years.
"It's an incremental step rather than a revolution; it's a bigger box with some interesting combination architecture that we call 'slice and dice'," said James Governor, analyst at RedMonk.
Initial reaction to the news from IBM's customers has been positive.
"The amount of data being moved around these days needs larger systems," said Geoff Petherick of the IBM Computer Users' Association. "There's a lot of new power hungry applications coming onto the market that need hefty systems."
But there is no reason to throw away the z900s just yet, according to Phil Payne, principal analyst at Isham Research.
"There aren't that many people in the market for huge systems," he said. "The trend in large users has been not to build as large as they can but to split the load and make sure if one goes down the other can take the strain.
"In any case I don't see this range being fully rolled out for about five years."
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