IBM launches its 'most powerful' mainframe yet

IBM has launched the System z10 mainframe, calling it a "commercial supercomputer".


IBM has launched the System z10 mainframe, calling it a "commercial supercomputer".

The z10 is based around a 4.4GHz quad-core processor that runs at a clock speed 2.6 times faster than the chips in IBM's z9 model could manage.

The new system also supports up to 1.5TB of available memory per system and Infiniband data rates of up to 6GBps, more than two times faster than on the z9.

According to IBM, the z10 is designed to run up to 50% faster than thethree year old z9 it replaces, and can deliver as much as twice the performance of the existing model on CPU-intensive applications. "This is the world's most powerful enterprise computer," said Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive of IBM's software unit.

Brad Day, an analyst at Forrester Research, said he thought there was a pent-up demand for the new system, especially from users in the retail and financial services industries.

For existing users, said Richard Partridge, an analyst at IT research firm Ideas International, the performance jump offered by the z10 should be enough to "slow down anybody who was thinking of abandoning the mainframe because they thought it was too sluggish."

A low-end z10 model starts at less than $1 million (£500,000), while a fully loaded model with 64 physical processors can cost in the multiple millions.

When IBM released the z9, a major emphasis for that system was security, encryption and other capabilities for maintaining data integrity. With the z10, a key component of IBM's economic justification for investing in new mainframes appears to be their ability to help IT managers solve server sprawl, and the power and cooling issues, a problems increasingly cited as a top data centre concerns.

"We are about to hit a wall," said Rod Adkins, senior vice president of development and manufacturing in IBM's systems and technology group. "Companies will either have the opportunity to expand their data centres or innovate within an existing data centre envelope."

IBM claims that the z10 can replace hundreds of x86 servers in the data centre if organisations use virtualisation.

IBM said that the new quad-core processor was designed, in part, to make it easier to run non-traditional mainframe applications -- namely, packaged software -- on the z10.

That expands on an ongoing effort to make the mainframe more adaptable to corporate processing needs through the use of so-called specialty engines -- lower-cost dedicated processors for running Linux, Java and other types of workloads. The z10 "is capable of running a diverse workload," Mills said.

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