IBM Poised to Unveil New Mainframes, Touts New iSeries Options

Big Blue is expected to announce new T-Rex mainframe systems, plus new capacity licensing options and upgrade paths for iSeries

IBM Corp. today announced several new capacity licensing options for its iSeries platforms, along with a new entry-level iSeries model and several upgrade paths from older AS/400 systems to iSeries.

Also today, Big Blue is expected to provide details about its next-generation mainframe systems, which have been code-named “T-Rex.”

In January the company unveiled On/Off Capacity Upgrade on Demand (On/Off CUD) for iSeries, a “light switch” feature that allows organizations to unlock spare processing power as capacity requirements increase—and to de-allocate it again when demand levels off.

Today, Big Blue unveiled a new “pre-pay” option for On/Off CUD, which lets customers pre-pay for light switch capacity in 30-day blocks. “We’re introducing a new flexible payment option so that you can now prepay for 30 days of processor capacity, and you do that, then, at a discount of 25 percent, compared to buying those days individually after use,” explains Ian Jarman, iSeries product marketing manager with IBM.

Jarman suggests that retail customers, for example, might opt to pre-purchase capacity for the busy Christmas shopping season. Customers can pre-purchase capacity at any time, he explains, noting that if an IT organization has money left in its budget at year-end, it can pre-purchase capacity for the following year: “It allows them to buy capacity when they have the opportunity in their budget and then hold [pre-purchased capacity] ready for use at the appropriate moment in their business cycles.”

IBM last week introduced On/Off CUD in its pSeries RISC-Unix systems which exploit the same Power architecture as iSeries. At the same time, Big Blue introduced two new capacity licensing options for pSeries—Try and Buy (in which customers could unlock excess capacity for free for up to 30 days) and Memory on Demand (in which they could purchase additional memory capacity as needed). Jarman says that there’s a good chance that at least one of these options will eventually be supported on iSeries—although probably not this year. “We have the flexibility to deploy similar technologies such as Memory on Demand on iSeries. You shouldn’t expect to see that this year because we don’t anticipate bringing further products to market this year, like the pSeries just did. But in future announcements you can expect to see Memory on Demand.”

IBM also announced a new addition to its family of i810 low-end iSeries servers, priced at $11,000 for a standard edition without the Maximum 5250 option. An Enterprise Edition version of the i810, priced at $55,000, includes this option, which allows customers to support users of 5250 green screen applications.

In addition, Big Blue unveiled several upgrade paths to the new entry-level i810 from popular models of its AS/400 systems, such as the models 720 and 820. “This gives customers the flexibility to get into the 810 and then upgrade from there into other parts of the 810 line. Secondly it’s attractive for customers who have our previous generation technology, the AS/400, for them to upgrade from the AS/400 into this new product. We offer upgrade features that allow you to move from that product into this new 810,” says Jarman.

One such feature is the ability to preserve an AS/400 system’s original serial number even after it’s been upgraded. “The preserving of the serial number is important for the fact that the way that companies do asset accounting, if you’re writing an asset off over a number of years, it allows you to maintain the same asset on the books,” he explains.

According to Jarman, most customers with high-end iSeries systems are now exploiting its support for logical partitioning (LPAR). He cites an IBM survey that found that 100 percent of customers with new i870 systems are running LPARs; similarly, 79 percent of customers with high-end i890 systems are running LPARs. Jarman explains the discrepancy between LPAR usage rates for the two platforms by noting that IBM’s sample pool for the i870, which was released in January, isn’t as large as that for the i890.

IBM set to unveil T-Rex

IBM is expected to unveil its much-anticipated T-Rex mainframe at a launch event today in San Francisco. T-Rex will be rechristened as the zSeries z990.

Today’s top-of-the-line z900 mainfames ship with a maximum of 16 G7 processors, but the new z990 will initially ship with as many as 32 processors based on IBM’s next-generation G8 CMOS. The z990 will support 48 processors by late 2003, and could support as many as 64 processors by 2004, confirmed Gordon Haff, a senior analyst with consultancy Illuminata.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.