IBM has unveiled a wide-ranging update to its System z mainframe line, including a new zEnterprise business class BC12 system designed to appeal to firms of all sizes, a beefed-up Enterprise Linux Server, and integration with OpenStack clouds.
Announced today, the updates to System z represent a move by IBM to keep its mainframe platform relevant in the modern world, with performance enhancements and new capabilities targeting specific customer segments such as government, banking and healthcare.
In addition to the zEnterprise BC12 (zBC12), which is intended to bring capabilities found in the high-end zEnterprise EC12 available to a broader market, IBM is releasing new versions of the z/OS operating system and z/VM virtualisation platforms across System z, along with numerous other enhancements.
In fact, IBM tries to discourage use of the word mainframe, System z director Kelly Ryan told V3, because of the image it conjures up of the massive room-filling systems of the past. In contrast, the zEnterprise BC12 unveiled today fits in a single cabinet, but is powerful enough to replace a whole rack full of standard servers, with much greater availability and reliability.
The zBC12 is effectively the follow-on from the zEnterprise 114, which launched in 2011, Ryan said. It enables customers to start small and scale up as required, with an upgrade path all the way up to zEC12. Pricing for the zBC12 starts at about £40,000.
This means that many customers will use the zBC12 as their entry point to using System z, while others are likely to use it as a regional server or as a failover system for the most critical workloads running on a larger zEnterprise box.
"It's a bigger business class with up to 13 total cores compared with 10 before, so you can run a lot more Linux workloads or z/OS workloads, but it's a single frame that's completely air cooled," she said.
Compared with the z114, the new box boasts a 36 percent performance improvement per core thanks to faster 4.2GHz processor chips, with memory capacity doubled to a maximum 512GB.
With the new z/OS 2.1 release, IBM has added scale and data-serving enhancements, plus an improved z/OS Management Facility designed to make it easier for new clients to adopt the platform.
Meanwhile, the z/VM 6.3 release adds a significant new capability in the form of integration with the OpenStack cloud computing framework. This will allow customers with OpenStack-based infrastructure to provision resources on a System z through the cloud orchestration and management layer for the first time, according to IBM.
IBM is publishing the APIs to enable this, Ryan said, allowing a zBC12 or zEC12 to integrate into an overall cloud architecture.
"Whatever cloud computing layer the client is running, whatever tools are pushing down on OpenStack, they can now push down on to z/VM and do the provisioning through it. You can envision a picture where you have your System z pieces, your PowerVM pieces, some VMware pieces, anything that ties up to OpenStack, available in a consistent manner," she explained.
The z/VM 6.3 update also adds enhancements for performance and scale, increasing real memory support up to 1TB, for example.
IBM's updated Enterprise Linux Server (ELS) enables customers to run up to 40 virtual servers per core, equating to a maximum 520 in a single footprint on the zBC12 or thousands on the zEC12. This enables customers to consolidate hundreds of workloads onto a single system.
A dedicated analytics solution based on ELS is also new, providing a dedicated Linux environment for analytics that is competitively priced, according to IBM.
IBM is also previewing new versions of its Information Management System (IMS) and DB2 applications, with IMS 13 set to ship to customers participating in the Quality Partnership Programme (QPP), while DB2 has already shipped to a select group of clients in a closed Early Support Programme (ESP).
New zEnteprise solutions for specific industries comprise the IBM Signature Solution, aimed at fraud detection for government agencies; IBM Smarter Analytics for Banking; and an updated IBM Cúram Solution for care management in healthcare.
While many have predicted the decline of the mainframe, System z is actually one of IBM's growth areas, showing a revenue increase of 10 percent in IBM's most recent financial figures.
"We've really seen a turning where clients are now coming in and asking us what new workload can be run on System z. Clients are starting to understand and see the benefits of the economies of scale in running an integrated platform," said Ryan.
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