Update: IBM unveils new mainframe, talks up virtualization

System z9 is focused on easing security and systems management

IBM unveiled its System z9 mainframe, the first in a new generation of machines focused on easing security and systems management, company executives said Tuesday.

At a wide-ranging event in New York, under the three themes of openness, virtualization and collaboration, Big Blue also debuted Virtualization Engine 2.0 and talked up the company's plans to establish an industry community based on BladeCenter, dubbed Blade.org.

"We have to collaborate much more broadly with others in the industry and with our clients," said Bill Zeitler, senior vice president and group executive for IBM's systems and technology group. He hosted a customer panel where IT managers stressed their need for IT vendors to ensure their products interoperate well.

The z9 represents a $1.2 billion IBM development investment involving the work of 5,000 company engineers over a three-year period, according to Erich Clementi, general manager of IBM Systems.

"The mainframe has joined the mainstream and is ready to collaborate," Clementi said.

The new z9 machine can process one billion transactions per day, more than doubling the maximum capability of IBM's previous high-end z990 mainframe. The new machine also has twice the memory of the z990, a maximum of 512 gigabytes, and is a fully configured 54-way system compared to the z990's 32-way system.

On the security front, data is being encrypted not only on the mainframe but anywhere information is stored, including tapes. The z9 will also enable customers to centrally manage encryption keys, according to Clementi.

At the center of the z9 is a newly designed multichip module (MCM), which IBM claims is the densest, most advanced chip and packing technology around.

The new mainframe features virtualization and workload management, which will allow customers to create thousands of virtual servers on a single system with a maximum of 60 logical hardware partitions, doubling the capability of the z990.

The z9 109 will have five models offering between one and 54 configurable processors, IBM said. The first four models, with one to 38 processors on board, are due to ship in September, with the high-capacity S54 model to appear in November.

IBM also introduced Virtualization Engine 2.0, based on open interfaces and taking a building block approach to virtualization and Web servers, according to Rod Adkins, vice president of development for IBM's systems and technology group.

The software will link up not only to IBM systems, but also to some non-IBM server and storage systems. Big Blue's software will integrate with technologies from the likes of Cisco Systems, VMware  and Network Appliance. Included in Virtualization Engine 2.0 are IBM's Resource Dependency Service, which acts as a portal into the system, and Integrated Virtual Management to help make it easier to set up and configure virtual systems. The virtualization software also includes a new version of IBM's Director suite of software management and automation tools, release 5.1.

Building on an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) relationship signed back in April, IBM and NetApp said Tuesday they're extending that deal to cover virtualization. The pair plan to combine IBM's storage virtualization with NetApp's V-Series and FAS storage systems. The agreement the companies signed in April allows IBM to resell and rebrand NetApp file servers.

In other storage news, IBM said it has expanded the interoperability of its storage virtualization TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller so it can support Linux running on zSeries machines.

In yet another announcement, IBM announced plans to set up Blade.org, a collaborative vendor effort to grow the products produced under BladeCenter, an IBM and Intel co-development design effort. IBM and Intel released the open specification for BladeCenter in September of last year. To date, over 260 companies have received the BladeCenter specifications, according to Susan Whitney, general manager for IBM Systems.

"We'll form an open collaboration community to help develop applications based on BladeCenter," she said. "We'll help develop interoperability testing and set up worldwide solution centers."

Companies likely to be founding members are Brocade Communications Systems, Cisco, Citrix Systems, Intel, NetApp, Nortel Networks, Novell and VMware. Big Blue has reserved the www.Blade.org Web site as the likely online home for the group.

IBM set up a similar vendor community last December, Power.org, aimed at the upping appeal of the Power microchip.

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