T-Rex Roars in Canada

“Workload License Charges” payment plan lets mid-size customers pay only for the portion of z990 capacity they need

Multi-million dollar mainframe systems don’t typically sell like hot cakes, but some industry watchers have suggested that IBM Corp.’s next-generation z990 mainframe—the largest, most powerful and priciest mainframe system that Big Blue has ever produced—could be a tougher sell than most.

At this point, Big Blue has been shipping the z990 for less than two months and has already trumpeted at least one big customer convert (http://info.101com.com/default.asp?id=2105).

Last week, IBM heralded another z990 win—this time with the Workman’s Compensation Board (WCB) of Alberta, Canada, an existing mainframe shop.

A mid-size, not-for-profit corporation, the Alberta WCB is an unlikely candidate for a super mainframe such as the z990, which in an eight-processor configuration starts at $1 million.

Thanks to a flexible payment plan offered by IBM Global Financing, however, the Alberta WCB was able to afford a new T-Rex. The payment plan, which IBM calls “Workload License Charges,” lets mid-size customers pay only for the portion of z990 capacity they need. This approach also makes it possible for mid-size customers to purchase additional capacity as their requirements change.

"With the financing IBM makes available, the Workers' Compensation Board gets the power and functionality of IBM's flagship eServer—the z990—and the ability to scale on demand to meet its business needs now and in the future,” said Mark Renfer, Business Unit Executive for zSeries with IBM Canada, in a prepared statement.

The Alberta WCB is using the z990 to support its claims management operations and says that the hardware transition from its existing mainframe to the new z990 has been seamless, with no disruption of customer services.

As expected, IBM’s new mainframe has improved the Alberta WCB’s online response times and accelerated its nightly batch processing operations. “[The z990’s] leading edge technology combined with the financial packaging provided by Workload License Charges delivers the performance our clients demand and the economics we need to maintain the mainframe as a viable business solution," concluded Murray Mitchell, the Alberta WCB’s manager of application hosting, in a press release.

Gordon Haff, a senior analyst with consultancy Illuminata, notes that the Alberta WBC is an unusual customer win for IBM, insofar as it’s upgrading from an existing mainframe system to a new z990. “The thing like [the Alberta WBC] was an upgrade for sort of traditional mainframe-type applications, and I don’ know how many of those types of upgrades will necessarily be required, because those applications do tend to be relatively static,” he notes. “If you have a previous generation mainframe and all you’re doing is continuing to run the same applications, upgrades are in the minority.”

Haff says that new workloads—such as Linux, Web services, and server consolidation efforts—have helped to drive mainframe growth. In this respect, customer wins such as Softbank Uway (a South Korean company that processes online university applications) are more representative of mainframe growth. After all, Softbank replaced an assortment of 45 database and Web servers from Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sun Microsystems Inc. with a single z990 mainframe.

“What’s kept IBM’s mainframe business going is bringing new types of applications to the mainframe, even if it’s not entirely to run virtualized Linux partitions, or entirely to run Web services types of applications,” Haff notes.

Related Articles

IBM Beefs Up z990 Securityhttp://info.101com.com/default.asp?id=2401

z990: Relief and Elation http://info.101com.com/default.asp?id=1437

IBM Showcases Next-Generation Mainframe http://info.101com.com/default.asp?id=1436

IBM Touts Linux-on-zSeries Grids http://info.101com.com/default.asp?id=1110

Linux Driving Mainframe Shipments http://info.101com.com/default.asp?id=1031

About the Author

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