IBM Celebrates Mainframe 50th Birthday with New Offerings and Pricing

Mike Vizard
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They say that age is only a number, so with that in mind, IBM set out to prove that the 50-year-old mainframe still has what it takes to dominate enterprise computing.

As part of its celebration of the 50th birthday of the mainframe, IBM today unveiled a slew of products and initiatives intended to make sure the mainframe stays relevant through at least the first half of the 21st Century.

The new offerings include the zDoop implementation of Hadoop for mainframes that IBM worked with Veristorm to develop, and an IBM DS8870 flash storage system that IBM says is four times faster than traditional solid-state disk (SSD) technology.

In addition, IBM unveiled an IBM Enterprise Cloud System based on mainframes that has been configured with IBM cloud orchestration and monitoring software.

But from a pure cost perspective, the most significant move being made by IBM concerns how the company is pricing the transactions generated by mobile computing devices on the mainframe. Because of the prevalence of mobile computing devices, the number of lookups of application data on the mainframe has spiked. Unlike traditional transactions, most of those lookups are not generating actual revenue for IBM mainframe customers. To ease that financial pain, IBM is lowering the cost of those transactions by up to 60 percent via a new IBM System z Solution for Mobile Computing offering.

Today IBM also unveiled an update to the IBM CISC Transaction Server that makes it easier to deploy IBM’s transaction processing engine as part of a cloud service that also supports mobile computing applications.

IBM also revealed its Continuous Integration for System z offering, which will facilitate application development in the cloud; an IBM WebSphere Liberty z/OS Connect offering for securely accessing mainframes that are running z/OS; and an IBM Security zSecure SSE offering that integrates the mainframe with IBM’s QRadar security intelligence software.


To help support the management of the mainframe, IBM today also extended its free massive open online courses (MOOCs) via partnerships with Syracuse University, Marist College and the Linux Foundation.

Deon Newman, IBM vice president for System z, says Linux is now running at about 40 percent of all mainframe customer sites and that 80 percent of IBM’s top 100 mainframe customers are running Linux on the mainframe. The vast majority of those instances involved consolidating workloads that previously ran on x86 servers, says Newman.

With the ability to run as many as 6,000 virtual machines per system, Newman says that many organizations are reducing the total cost of IT by using IBM mainframes to run a broader set of workloads, including using them as cost-effective cloud computing platforms.

In fact, IBM notes that more than 70 percent of enterprise data resides on mainframes and 71 percent of all Fortune 500 companies have their core businesses on mainframes.

While it’s true that many workloads have migrated away from the lower end of the mainframe market, Newman says that trend was due in part to the way IBM prices certain classes of workloads on the mainframe. Some such workloads wind up running on the platform for a nominal additional cost. In addition, Newman notes that with the rise of real-time analytics, many of those workloads are now processed concurrently with transactions on the mainframe.

The challenge that many organizations face when considering the mainframe is that the initial cost of acquiring one is high and the talent needed to manage them is not so readily available. But in the last couple of years, IBM has steadily worked to bring the entry price-point of a barebones mainframe down to $75,000.

But as we continue to see more convergence across mainframe and distributed computing systems in the age of the cloud, it may one day be difficult to discern exactly where one platform begins and the other ends.

In the meantime, thanks to new pricing strategies and the massive amounts of enterprise data still residing on the mainframe, it’s unlikely that there will be many mainframe retirement parties in the near future.



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