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IBM Mainframes Outfitted For On Demand

IBM is outfitting legacy mainframe lines with its latest on-demand strategy.

Big Blue said it plans to offer new capabilities for its zSeries mainframes, such as virtualization software support, as well as a new on-demand banking center. It will also work with several universities to teach students how to set up mainframes, particularly in China.

Despite widespread announcements that businesses embrace low-cost, one- to two-processor servers running Linux, IBM claims the 40-year old system architecture is gaining popularity because of the massive amounts of transactions it can process in a short period of time.

Sales for the zSeries systems grew 30 percent year-over-year for the last three quarters, according to IBM zSeries Marketing Manager David Mastrobattista.

The new investments, initiatives and technology are part of the Armonk, N.Y., company's strategy to align its core products with its strategy for delivering computing resources on the fly.

"If you go back several years ago, it's almost on par to what IBM did with the IBM clustering for the mainframe," said Mastrobattista, who had covered IBM for years as an analyst before joining IBM. "For the marketplace, that was brand new. Now, we're taking those mainframe strengths and aligning them with the on-demand strategy."

He said IBM will open a multi-million dollar, proof-of-concept and benchmarking laboratory in China focused on the government and financial services sectors.

Mastrobattista said Big Blue will eventually deliver zSeries mainframes and TotalStorage to universities in China. This is part of the company's plan to cultivate 20,000 new workers on the mainframe by 2010.

Mainframes remain crucial in banking. IBM's On Demand Banking Prototype Center, based in Montpellier, France, demonstrates a back-office environment that shows how on-demand environments can be run by IBM mainframes and help financial services firms bring new products and services to customers.

The center is designed to teach banking entities the value of on-demand infrastructure in responding to such challenges as regulatory changes or unplanned outages.

The mainframe's new roadmap includes an effort to make the zSeries more reliable and powerful by extending virtualization, clustering, partitioning provisioning and workload management in the system.

Mastrobattista said zSeries support for IBM Virtualization Engine Systems Services with its Enterprise Workload Manager for z/OS is planned for the fourth quarter. The idea is to make monitoring and management of applications ubiquitous across IBM platforms.

The company is also rolling out z/Transaction Processing Facility Enterprise Edition V1.1.0, an operating system designed for high availability transaction processing in banking, finance and public sector markets. The new system supports C/C++, 64-bit zSeries architectures and Linux to serve 25,000 transactions per second.

In Q1 2005, IBM plans to roll out new entry-level software for managing disk subsystems on a single site, called GDPS Hyperswap Manager. Security on mainframes will be bolstered by integrating cards that manage SSL web transactions. IBM is using TKE Smart Card to replace PC workstations for manually entering cryptography codes.

With these product additions, the company's goal is to help customers weave that functionality into a so-called "global fabric" within the on-demand operating environment.