Mainframes Have a New Need for Speed


IBM today laid claim to developing the world's fastest microprocessor, a 5.2 GHz processor called the z196 used in the company's most recently launched zEnterprise system.

According to Charles Webb, IBM fellow for System z processor design, this advance was accomplished using 45-nanometer processors and a lot of hard work on the way the logic and design of the circuits interact on the processor.


As much as traditional transaction processing applications love faster systems, Webb says there are three other application trends driving the need for faster mainframes.

The first is virtualization, which more IT organizations are starting to consolidate on faster servers. Virtual machines hunger for memory and the mainframe, most likely running Linux, provides an efficient shared memory architecture.

The second major driver is application modernization. In as much as people like to talk about moving applications off the mainframe and onto Intel-class systems, Webb says applications routinely are being modernized but left on the mainframe because the modernization invariably requires more processing horsepower than ever.

And finally, Webb notes that the rise of interest in real-time analytics is creating demand of mainframes. Webb says he expects this trend to continue as more customers begin to process everything in real time as much as possible. Helping this trend along is the deployment of millions of intelligent sensors that now need to feed data back to a central location for processing.

Webb says that now that the shine has come off the fully distributed computing model, customers are rediscovering the inherent advantages of the mainframe architecture.

The challenge, of course, is the relatively high initial cost. But as Webb notes, IBM has lots of financing options available.