IBM Announces Largest Mainframes Ever, Extends On/Off Capacity On Demand

IBM announces new z990 mainframes, a rebate offer, On/Off Capacity On Demand for Linux, revamped Parallel Sysplex, and increased tech support spending

With a raft of recent mainframe-related announcements, IBM Corp. is making a good case that Big Iron is far from dead.

The company unveiled new, larger 24- (C24) and 32-way (D32) configurations of its z990 – “T-Rex” – mainframe. IBM originally shipped T-Rex in June in eight- and 16-way configurations; the new 32-way z990 D32 is the largest and most powerful mainframe IBM has ever designed.

To make its products even more attractive, Big Blue announced a new rebate offer that makes it possible for customers to save as much as $250,000 on zSeries mainframes. According to Pete McCaffrey, program director of zSeries marketing with IBM, customers must purchase any of several On Demand technology offerings to qualify for the rebate.

That [rebate amount] also depends on the size of the z990 that you purchase. The rebate can be used for a set of eligible On Demand technologies, which include our On Demand Blade Center, but also WebSphere, Shark storage, and other middleware products,” he explains.

Big Blue also extended its On/Off Capacity On Demand feature to encompass Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) engines running on zSeries hardware. On/Off Capacity On Demand lets customers unlock extra capacity to handle seasonal peaks in a business cycle, or to otherwise accommodate unplanned spikes in demand.

Because customers are commonly apportioning as much as 20 percent of the capacity of their large mainframe systems for Linux, McCaffrey says, many have requested On/Off Capacity on Demand support for their IFL engines.

“The combination of more and more types of mission-critical applications out there, plus the availability of more and more Linux partitions, is driving many customers to find a mainframe-class server to support Linux,” he explains, noting that until now, On/Off Capacity On Demand had been available only for z/OS engines. “So this lets them temporarily turn capacity on and then only pay for the days that it was activated.”

In addition, IBM announced a new fibre channel attachment to ease Linux to mainframe consolidation efforts. In the past, when customers consolidated from distributed Linux systems to Big Iron Linux, McCaffrey says, they had to copy all of their data over to the mainframe. With the new fibre channel attachment, that’s no longer the case. “Now they can leave the data on existing open storage devices. The benefit is that you can better leverage your existing storage investments as you consolidate onto the mainframe.”

IBM certainly didn’t leave traditional mainframe users high and dry. Among other enhancements, Big Blue touted a revamped Parallel Sysplex implementation that McCaffrey says enables much larger (up to 100 KM) clusters of zSeries mainframes. “Parallel Sysplex is our clustering environment, and we’ve extended [the maximum distance between clustered systems] with this announcement from 40 kilometers to 100 kilometers. That’s appropriate for sites that are pursuing business continuance strategies, and that will allow for continuous availability in the event of a disaster.”

Certain to be of interest to large Big Iron shops are the new IBM Systems Architects, whose services Big Blue will offer—free of charge, no strings attached—to top accounts.

McCaffrey says that the role of the Systems Architect is to analyze a customer’s environment and to make suggestions about infrastructure simplification.

“They will look across a customer’s infrastructure and look for opportunities to simplify that infrastructure and reduce tiers, and do it in a way to take advantage of some of the emerging technologies like grid computing, as well as Linux,” he comments. “They’ve been deployed to our top accounts on an On Demand basis, free of charge. It’s part of our overall commitment t to our customers regarding the zSeries platform.”

According to McCaffrey, IBM plans to dramatically increase its spending on zSeries technical support over the next year. “We spend around a quarter of a billion dollars on zSeries technical support, and we’re increasing that by 30 to 40 percent,” he concludes. “We have over 1,000 people deployed supporting zSeries solutions today. We have over 20,000 design centers around the world, so it’s probably not well known, but we’re beefing that up even more.”

Editor's note: This story was originally posted 10/14/2003 at Enterprise Strategies.

About the Author

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