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Global CIO: IBM's Blazing New Mainframe Wins Raves From Citigroup

Citigroup says the z196's record-setting chips help deliver massive performance increase and flexibility that will result in greater innovation and value for customers.

Having just taken ownership of the first supercharged and water-cooled IBM z196 mainframe to roll off the assembly line, Citigroup is already expecting the new machine, powered by the world's fastest and most powerful chips, to drive down overall IT costs, trigger large-system consolidation, improve data quality, strengthen disaster-recovery preparedness, and help Citigroup become more responsive to customer needs and demands.

That's pretty impressive performance for a computing platform long rumored to be going the way of Triceratops and Apatosaurus. And it's further evidence of why IBM is zealously protecting its extensive mainframe-technology intellectual-property rights from knock-off makers of mainframe hardware that are trying to use the courts to force IBM to share its one-of-a-kind mainframe software with them.

If you think that's just hype, you should consider the early impressions of Martin Kennedy, the managing director of Citigroup's enterprise systems infrastructure and the guy who believes IBM's new z196 mainframe is "the highest-performing mainframe ever made" and represents "an architectural change of significant magnitude that has the potential to completely change the IT landscape."

Because the new system's 96 processors deliver unprecedented computing speed and power, Kennedy said, early indications suggest Citi will be able to collapse multiple existing large systems into the new water-cooled z196, which is a huge step in the company's attempt to shift more of its IT dollars away from internal operations and maintenance and toward customer-facing efforts.

"With this first machine that we've brought in-house, we'll be running many of our core applications on it and looking closely at reliability characteristics, which have always been a strength of mainframes," Kennedy said in a Wednesday phone conversation. "So for our customers, we think this will lead to our ability to deliver a very highly reliable and innovative package of core banking applications in a very efficient way."

That's possible, he said, because of "some new enhanced capabilities we're looking at: we can integrate heterogeneous hardware and have it all managed centrally by a hypervisor on this new machine," Kennedy said. The ability to oversee those distributed server instances from a central point means less overhead for Citi because the z196 handles that microcode automatically.

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"For us in the Operations & Technology group, we want to be regarded throughout the company as innovative and creative in bringing the best possible outcome to our clients, and our culture is to be highly focused on delivering real advantages to all parts of our business," he said. "And we are finding that the z196 can deliver some very real advantages."

Asked to explain some of those, Kennedy rattled off quite a list:

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