RealTime IT News

New IBM 'T-Rex' Sniffs Out Mid-range Fare

IBM updated its "T-Rex" line of mainframe computer systems Wednesday by adding a scaled down version of the original machine designed specifically for medium-sized businesses and a corresponding storage system.

Geared to compete with UNIX offerings from HP and Sun Microsystems, the eServer zSeries 890 offers features from the z990 at a lower cost and entry size. The Armonk, N.Y. systems vendor also announced a Shark enterprise storage server to accompany the z890 in the mid-range space.

Terri Virnig, vice president of strategic initiative and technical support at IBM, said the z890 and Shark system news comes on the 40th anniversary of the company's first mainframe, the System/360. Virning said the zSeries has grown from a $5 billion investment to roughly $30 billion since the mainframe appeared in 1964.

The z890 offers the same levels of virtualization, automation, security and scalability as the z990 but it is 100 percent faster than the previous mid-range z800 server and is more than 30 percent smaller to conserve space in cluttered data centers.

Virnig told internetnews.com the new machine offers unprecedented granularity in that it is offered with 28 capacity settings over one to four processors to let businesses match server capacity with their business requirements.

This was based on customer requests and advice on how IBM could improve upon the z800. For example, the machine processes anywhere from 26 millions of instructions per second (MIPS) to 1350, more than twice the capacity of the z800.

Such flexibility is key at a time when customer's computing needs increase or decrease in an instant, and is another example of how IBM is making its e-business on-demand strategy come to fruition.

Sageza Research Director Charles King said the play is another hallmark of IBM's strategy to push features from high-end machines down into lower cost products designed for smaller companies that ask for high-level functionality.

"They're pushing the z990 technology that was introduced in the T-Rex down into the mid-market in the same way that they did with the z900 into the z800," King told internetnews.com. "The z900 was the original big box and typically what they'll do -- at least for the last two product releases -- is bring the big box out first and then a year or so later they push that technology down into a small box."

King said the move is indicative of the way the company has been using their mainframes a proving ground for new technologies. After all, one can look at most of Big Blue's server and storage products and pick out capabilities first found in IBM mainframes, including autonomic computing and virtualization features.

The keystone feature of the z890 is the new zSeries Application Assist Processor (zAAP), a z/OS Java execution environment for customers seeking to integrate Java Web applications along side existing business applications and data on the same server platform.

The technology is geared to provide let users incorporate Java applications with legacy software. Priced at $125,000 per processor and slated for June 30, zAAP simplifies server infrastructure and improve operational efficiencies, which cuts costs.

King said the zAAP technology is an example of IBM adding new technologies to satisfy their current customers, as well as try to attract new classes of customers. Ultimately, King said IBM likely would like to move customers from s/360 and s/390 legacy systems to the zSeries. "Those customers get increasingly expensive for a vendor to support over time," he said.

The z890 also features On/Off computing-on-demand support for integrated Coupling Facilities and zAAP and provides additional temporary capacity for Parallel Sysplex clustering and Java workloads. The new server will be sold May 28, with entry level pricing around $200,000.

As for the new storage system, the TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server 750 is designed to help mid-range customers meeting the smaller capacity and price needs of new mainframe and other system servers.

The ESS 750 allows for anywhere from 1.1 to 4.6 terabytes of on-demand storage that upgrades on the fly; more than 20 autonomic feature for storage management; and new copy services functions. The machine will be available in May starting at a shade over $100,000.