from the big-iron dept.
The death of the mainframe has been predicted many times over the years but it has prevailed because it has been overhauled time and again. Now Steve Lohr reports that IBM has just released the z13, a new mainframe engineered to cope with the huge volume of data and transactions generated by people using smartphones and tablets. “This is a mainframe for the mobile digital economy,” says Tom Rosamilia. “It’s a computer for the bow wave of mobile transactions coming our way.” IBM claims the z13 mainframe is the first system able to process 2.5 billion transactions a day and has a host of technical improvements over its predecessor, including three times the memory, faster processing and greater data-handling capability. IBM spent $1 billion to develop the z13, and that research generated 500 new patents, including some for encryption intended to improve the security of mobile computing. Much of the new technology is designed for real-time analysis in business. For example, the mainframe system can allow automated fraud prevention while a purchase is being made on a smartphone. Another example would be providing shoppers with personalized offers while they are in a store, by tracking their locations and tapping data on their preferences, mainly from their previous buying patterns at that retailer.
IBM brings out a new mainframe about every three years, and the success of this one is critical to the company’s business. Mainframes alone account for only about 3 percent of IBM’s sales. But when mainframe-related software, services, and storage are included, the business as a whole contributes 25 percent of IBM’s revenue and 35 percent of its operating profit. Ronald J. Peri, chief executive of Radixx International was an early advocate in the 1980s of moving off mainframes and onto networks of personal computers. Today Peri is shifting the back-end computing engine in the Radixx data center from a cluster of industry-standard servers to a new IBM mainframe and estimates the total cost of ownership including hardware, software, and labor will be 50 percent less with a mainframe. “We kind of rediscovered the mainframe,” says Peri.