IBM Tuesday is set to launch the System z10, its next-generation mainframe, featuring quad-core processors and aimed at computing-intensive tasks.
Compared to its predecessor, the z9, the new mainframe has a lot more horsepower. Every box can be fitted with up to 64 cores for running applications, improving processor performance by 50 percent, according to IBM.
The support for Infiniband also increases internal bandwidth by a factor of two, from 2.7GBps to 6GBps.
"The System z10 is much better at handling CPU-intensive jobs," said Uno Bengtsson, senior IT specialist at IBM Sweden.
IBM would like to see customers start to use the mainframe for modern applications. "You can run for example SAP on Linux together with DB2 on z/OS in one box," said Bengtsson.
IBM also makes it a point that the mainframe goes hand-in-hand with both green IT and consolidation. A single System z10 is the equivalent of nearly 1,500 distributed servers, according to IBM, with up to an 85 percent smaller footprint, and 85 percent lower energy costs.
The mainframe is still a very important platform for IBM. It spent $1.5 billion and five years on the development of the z10.
IBM still has more revenue than any other server vendor. Hewlett-Packard sold 1.3 million servers more on a worldwide basis last year, but according to Gartner its revenue in that sector is still smaller than IBM's. Without the mainframe, that wouldn't be the case.
"It's still a relevant platform and IBM has done a pretty good job of keeping it that way," said Adrian O'Connell, principal analyst at Gartner.
Last year sales of IBM's mainframe platform fell almost 10 percent, according to Gartner.
"Sales are usually cyclical. We think it will pick up this year, but we don't see growth at the expense of other platforms," said O'Connell.
The mainframe still has a lot of fans, and for them the continued development of the platform is a must.
"For the mainframe to remain competitive it has to improve its price/performance by at least 20 percent every year, and this launch is one step in the right direction," said Fredrik Runnquist, head of IT at Swedish bank Swedbank.
"Every year we compare the mainframe to other platforms, like Solaris and Windows, just to make sure it's still the right choice for us," said Runnquist.
When it comes to moving new applications to the mainframe he is more hesitant. "For us to move an application to the mainframe the performance gain has to be significant, because we have to factor in the moving cost," said Runnquist.