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IBM Dusts Off Mainframes

As a leading server vendor, IBM has spent a lot of money developing new, more compact machines with so-called "mainframe-inspired" technologies. That doesn't mean Big Blue has forgotten about its former bread-and-butter boxes.

The company has been making a case for not just the survival, but the continued success of its zSeries mainframe machines as it announced one of Europe's largest deployments of Linux on the mainframe.

Swiss-owned Endress+Hauser, which makes process control devices, has agreed to consolidate its 19 global, Unix-based SAPR/3 systems onto two IBM eServer zSeries 990 mainframes. The systems boast 36 integrated Linux processors. Financial terms of the deal were not made public, but zSeries 990 generally top the $1 million mark.

The goal is to make Endress+Hauser's applications, which serve 3,500 users and are housed in the company's data center in Weil am Rhein, Germany, easier to manage.

This includes perks central to IBM's e-business on-demand computing strategy, such as virtualization, which allows multiple computer systems to be partitioned and run independently. Virtualization allows customers to run multiple servers on one mainframe.

Walter Rink, managing director of Endress+Hauser InfoServe, the IT service provider of the Endress+Hauser Group, discussed the customer's challenge in a statement.

"Being a global company, our IT users are spread across many locations," Rink said. "When we considered which platform we needed to migrate our ERP application from SAP R/2 to R/3, we also took the opportunity to look at how we could bring together the SAP R/3 systems onto a single server."

While IBM, HP, Sun Microsystems and Dell all scramble for more server market share, Big Blue has most of what the others offer. But it is certainly distinguished because of its mainframes, more than 40-year-old machines that were once thought to be dinosaurs.

IBM aimed to prove skeptics wrong with its next-generation z990 (code-named T-Rex) mainframes over a year ago. The company has gone on to grow its mainframe revenue for four consecutive quarters, with a more than 30 percent year-to-year for the last three.

This strongly suggests customers are still interested in mainframe technologies despite other industry trends to smaller, module boxes. But many customers are also looking for smaller servers based on Linux, which bodes well for IBM, which is crafting a Linux-based blade server.

While the biggest win in awhile, Wednesday's zSeries coup is hardly a one-off for IBM. Last month, the vendor completed work on disaster recovery gear for the Principal Financial Group, the Des Moines, Iowa, provider of employee benefits.

Principal's data centers utilize zSeries mainframe servers and IBM TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Servers (ESS) to decrease the potential for data loss. The system serves 15.6 million customers and can be up and running in less than 24 hours in the event of a disaster.



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