The mainframe is back
So it went away, then?
So much for the "dinosaur" label. Sales of IBM's mainframe, now referred to as the zSeries, are growing at remarkable rate, not experienced since its heyday - indeed if current mainframe growth continues, then the mainframe is emerging like a phoenix from the flames.
In its latest earnings report, IBM showed mainframe revenue growth of 44 per cent, year over year. The mainframe has delivered remarkable performance over the last four quarters to become IBM's largest hardware growth segment. So where's the growth coming from?
According to, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano, it comes from the move to On Demand and server consolidation, which is anyway a precursor to implementing any kind of On Demand strategy. Sam should be pleased, given that IBM has invested over $1bn in the zSeries platform and even introduced new models.
However, there can be little doubt that the jewel in the mainframe crown is Linux in combination with the mainframe's architecture, which delivers an unmatched virtualization capability. The Linux contribution is twofold. It provides applications (and after all its applications that sell computers) and it can act as a useful capability for consolidation projects.
All in all, Linux on the mainframe has a lower TCO that Linux on anything else if you take into account the fact that managing Linux on the mainframe is easier and the vitualization capabilities enable a Linux instance to be very resource efficient. As for the virtualization capability itself, it amounts to the virtualization of everything, from CPU and memory partitioning through to the partitioning of storage and network resources.
Apropos of which, IBM recently announced a similar virtualization capability on its pSeries, which now makes it an aggressive competitor in the Unix market. The latest pSeries offerings will probably cause concern amongst the competition. It runs on the Power 5 processor, which offers awesome performance. The early crop of benchmarks indicate that the pSeries is currently well ahead of the competition. The pSeries is beginning to look very much like a Unix mainframe.
All of this has to be very encouraging for IBM. It has spent more than a decade trying to converge its server products and it has now reached the point where its convergence investments are beginning to pay dividends. The dinosaurs have evolved. They have smaller footprints, they seem to be very adaptable and they're proliferating.