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IBM goes big on new mainframe with fastest chip, flash memory

Patrick Thibodeau | Aug. 29, 2012
IBM's latest mainframe, the zEnterprise zEC12, is big on data analytics and hybrid clouds.

The zEC12 was also adapted to a type of data center design that eliminates the raised floor. It has overhead power and cabling support. IBM says that is a first for the mainframe.

David Wade, CIO of the financial services firm Primerica, said he intends to upgrade from his zEnterprise 196 in a year to 18 months.

Wade has installed 19 mainframes in 32 years at Primerica, where he began as a production control technician. Their IT shop is primarily IBM, including its P Systems and Wintel platforms.

The company's database software is also IBM. Wade said they installed version one of DB2 in 1984 and are now on version 10.

Wade is proponent of continuous upgrades. He says some IT managers will add processors to gain performance but he believes you need to upgrade to latest version to get real gains. When his company installed their z196, "we took four hour off our batch cycle at night," Wade said.

He is committed to the IBM platform and says he has seen some of his peers migrate off mainframes only to return. Leaving the mainframe is "just a waste of time and money," Wade said.

It's because of people such as Wade that IBM has continued with the system, despite the increasing capabilities of alternative systems, including its own Power systems.

In every generational revision of the mainframe, "you always see an interesting mix of significant performance bumps mixed in with new features to support emerging workloads, and that's been a hallmark of IBM's mainframe strategy," said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT who was also briefed on the new system.

King said it's important for IBM to adapt these systems to new workloads, such as analytics, "so it doesn't get stuck as just a credit card and bank statement transaction platform."

The mainframe can meet computational requirements that come from, for instance, RFID-generated data to smart electrical meters. IBM has taken a transaction model "and then adapts it to different kinds of transactions," said King.

Read more about mainframes in Computerworld's Mainframes Topic Center.


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