18 February 2002 Systems giant IBM has unveiled an addition to its mainframe line that it hopes will expand its customer base at the lower-end of the market. Its aggressively-priced eServer z800 will enable smaller organisations to exploit mainframe capabilities such as high-reliability, partitioning and clustering, claim IBM company executives.
The move is the latest attempt by IBM to revive enthusiasm for mainframes among customers that deserted the architecture during the 1990s. Mainframes are still a vital part of IBM’s revenue stream as they are the starting point for years of maintenance, upgrade and software licence sales. In fact, revenues of the company’s mainframes grew over 2001 for the first time in over a decade, largely as a result of increased support for Internet applications and the Linux open source operating system.
The keen pricing of the z800 contrasts sharply with historical mainframe costs: the $375,000 ticket includes three years maintenance. And the product also provides entry-class customers with features previously only available to larger users, claims Rich Lechner, vp of sales and marketing for zSeries, including the IBM Parallel Sysplex clustering technology. Clustering is a popular method for implementing parallel processing of applications because it enables two or more computers to behave like a single machine.
In addition, z800 has a stripped down operating system called z/0S.e, a version of IBM’s zSeries 64-bit operating systems, that has been specifically designed to run new web-enabled software such as Siebel Systems latest customer relationship management software. But x800 is not suitable for all mainframe customers as it will not run legacy transactional systems written in Cobol or Fortran.
The new IBM product, previously codenamed Raptor, is seen by many analysts as a direct response to Unix systems from Sun Microsystems which boast mainframe-like capabilities. Sun has labelled IBM’s latest mainframe releases as “dinosaurs”.