There is still a role for the mainframe computer, as many are still at the infrastructure core of some of the world's largest corporations. This is good news for IBM, which recently unveiled its latest, the zEnterprise EC12, which it hopes will fight off competition from the lower-priced clusters of PC-based servers that are increasingly being used to handle heavy-duty processing.
This is the first general purpose IBM server to incorporate transactional memory technology, first used commercially to help make the IBM Blue Gene/Q-based “Sequoia” system at Lawrence Livermore National Lab the fastest supercomputer in the world. IBM has spent more than $1 billion developing the updated machine, focusing on efforts to boost its computing performance, capacity and features.
The zEC12 includes large-scale virtualisation capabilities (designed to support private cloud environments) and it has been enhanced to provide better security and more robust data analytics tools than older IBM models. It can be run without a raised data centre floor (which is a first for an IBM mainframe) and the new overhead power and cabling support provides more flexibility on where the zEC12 can be deployed.
‘We continue to drive innovation on System z, allowing a broader set of clients to apply its leadership capabilities in security and resiliency to the current demands of their business, be they from analytics, cloud or mobile computing,’ said Doug Balog, general manager IBM System z. ‘Our end-to-end design approach for smarter computing - from processors to systems to software optimisation – is targeted to handle complicated business challenges associated with managing, protecting and analysing a client's most critical information.’
Analysts predict a declining market for mainframes. Gartner estimates that annual mainframe will fall in 2012 and keep falling every year until at least 2016, shrinking the market by 14 per cent – though it remains lucrative for IBM, which still sells enough mainframes to make the zEC12 worth the $1bn it cost to develop.