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IBM's 64-Processor Quad-Core Mainframe Unveiled

The z10 has the processing equivalent of nearly 1,500 x86 servers, with a smaller footprint and lower energy costs, the company claims.

IBM on Tuesday introduced the System z10 mainframe, which the company said offers more capacity and faster and better performance for CPU-intensive jobs than the previous generation.

The z10 is the equivalent of nearly 1,500 x86 servers, with a smaller footprint and lower energy costs, IBM said. The new computer can consolidate x86 software licenses at up to a 30-to-1 ratio.

In selling the expensive machine, IBM focuses on the mainframe's ability to consolidate the data center into a "policy-driven system that doles out, manages, and tracks" IT resources. Policy-driven functions include authorization management and utilization management.

The former refers to the use of encryption algorithms that enable z10 administrators to control access to specific business services. For example, an employee may have entry-level clearance to search employee records for histories of volunteer work for a corporate report, but not be able to access salary, promotion, and human resources information.

The 64-processor z10, which uses quad-core processors, can support hundreds to hundreds of millions of users, according to IBM.

The z/OS, the IBM-developed operating systems supported by the z10, can manage transactions based on preset policies. For example, the mainframe and the OS can be configured to decide which requests from users require top priority for immediate processing, while other requests wait.

Besides the z/OS, the z10 supports Linux, and IBM is working with Sun Microsystems to run OpenSolaris on the mainframe. Linux and OpenSolaris are both open source operating systems.

The z10 also enables administrators to automate the provisioning of processing power, so a financial services company or retailer, for example, can automate allocation of processing power to periods when demand spikes. Also, the mainframe can be configured to automatically shift processing power when unanticipated demands hit.

As a sign of the growing use of the mainframe, IBM said more than 400 universities are participating in its skills program, up from 23 in 2004. Gartner, however, reported that revenue from IBM's System z and System i fell 9.6% in 2007. IBM, which leads the worldwide server market based on revenue, ended the year with an overall increase of 0.8%. Gartner attributed the rise to 10.2% growth in revenue from System x and a 9.2% increase in sales of System p. Neither one is a mainframe computer.

Along with the introduction of z10, IBM on Tuesday also unveiled a new version of its Tivoli Service Management Center for System z and the Cognos 8 Business Intelligence for System z. IBM also announced a Cognos 8 BI for Linux on System z customer beta program. General availability of the software is set for the second half of this year.

In the second half of the year, IBM plans to bring new master data management capabilities to System z, including the InfoSphere MDM Server for Linux, which enables businesses to centrally manage customer, product, and account data across an enterprise.

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