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Some might see IBM's pursuit of Linux as a sign of desperation, an and mainframe Linux as a whimsy, but every indication we see is that combined these maneuvers do seem to be paying off.

The biggest, baddest and most expensive bit of IBM's server range, Freeway got its first public outing today and it comes with a host of anciliary goodies which might make hosting PC server farms on mainframe much more viable.

We gather at least one European financial institution based in the City of London has bought Freeway specifically for the purpose of hosting Linux web services. Publicly IBM cites the ASP MetaHost in Vancouver finding 1:30 savings over Intel boxen. But not all the pieces arrived today.

What IBM did announce is a new top-of-the-range S/390, only under the new moniker zSeries 900, and the venerable mainframe nee MVS (aka Man Versus System) gets similarly rebranded from OS/390 to z/OS. Although the latest er, z/OS will run on G5 and G6 mainframes. Clear?

The CPUs or "engines" are now 64bit, instead of 31bit with 44bit extensions. And no, that's not a typo.

Barry Heptonstall, a UK manager for Enterprise Servers tells us that performance figures will be made available in December, but that 12-CPU servers go up to 1644 mips, rising to 2500 mips for a fully 16-way. The box actually contains 20 CPUs, but 16 are available to run z/OS or Linux.

Probably more importantly, internal bandwidth has tripled according to IBM, from the 8Gbytes/sec in the current G6 to 24Gbytes/sec. For web servers, the mainframe has gradually been getting polished for better TCP/IP performance: a new TCP/IP stack and next year, a way of virtualizing traffic so that connections don't leave the box. IBM's describes this as Queued Direct IO - the current interconnect - only inside the machine. This initiative, Hypersockets, isn't due until early next year. However IBM already has customers using 2300 PC images on an S/390.

Since Hitachi's licensing deal for S/390 expired last year (outside Japan, anyway) IBM has it all to itself.

And the entry level? Well, zSeries will set you back up to a $1m, but getting on the S/390 train is much cheaper. IBM will continue to offer G5 and G6 S/390s alongside zSeries. IBM also says it's persuaded CA and others to play along with its capacity on demand pricing scheme for software.

Now did anyone say there was a PC slowdown in sales? ®

Related stories

IBM servers get name change
SuSE swipes AS/400 in IBM megadeal
Linux goes big iron
US company claims S/390 mips breakthrough

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