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IBM chills mainframe New Coke

Sweeter formula runs Linux cheaper

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The z10 BC can also have up to 5 of the engines in the complex designated as zAAPs and 5 designated as zIIPs. All told, the z10 BC has a total of twelve physical processor cores, or four three-core z6, on its processor book. The machine supports 480 ESCON channels, 128 FICON channels, and from 4 GB to 120 GB of main memory. 248 GB of main memory will be supported in June 2009. Gigabit Ethernet and 10 Gigabit Ethernet network cards are also supported on the machine, just like with the larger z10 EC. IBM's DS8000 disk arrays and TS7700 tape arrays have been updated to work with the z10 BC boxes too.

According to Gelardi, the z10 BC will be appealing to both classic and new mainframe shops because of the much lower price tag it has, at least relative to its big brother, the z10 EC. An entry configuration of the z10 EC is $1 million, and it is not hard to get a configuration with lots of processors up into the $30 million to $40 million price range. The entry z10 BC with one z6 engine geared way down to 26 MIPS, with 16 GB of main memory (8 GB usable by applications), and some base ESCON channels costs $100,000.

Interestingly, IBM says it has cut the prices of specialty engines on the z10 BC by 50 per cent and memory prices by 60 per cent compared to the z9 BC announced in May 2006. Those may not sound like big cuts for x64 and RISC servers, but for mainframes where there is vendor lock-in, those are huge cuts.

Upgrades from the BC to the EC are also available as workloads grow and, importantly, that preserve the server serial number so the box does not have to be written off the books immediately following the upgrade. IBM says that the z10 BC has 40 per cent more processor speed and 50 per cent more aggregate capacity than the z9 BC it replaces in the product line and has nearly four times the main memory to support applications.

IBM is also offering upgrades from its zSeries 890 entry mainframe, which is two generations old, and from the System z9 BC, which is one generation back. On the operating system front, the z10 BC supports z/OS V1.8 or higher; z/VSE V3.1 as well as V4.1 and higher; z/VM 5.2 and higher; TPF 4.1 and higher and z/TPF 1.1 and higher (this is the special operating system IBM created for online reservation systems decades ago); and Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and 10 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 or 5. Linux can run inside logical partitions (supported by a combination of microcode and hardware called PR/SM) or inside z/VM partitions, which offer much finer granularity.

Because IBM is trying to expand the mainframe into emerging markets, the company actually launched the z10 BC in Singapore and in Johannesburg, South Africa, two emerging markets where the Linux-friendly mainframe is getting traction. A launch event was also held in the mainframe stronghold of Zurich, Switzerland, where IBM also has some mainframe labs.

As part of the sales pitch at these events, IBM is telling customers that it can consolidate 232 x86 Linux servers onto a z10 BC and take up 83 per cent less floor space, with 93 percent less energy usage, and deliver nearly 100 per cent CPU utilization while also being more secure and more automated than a rack of Linux boxes. ®

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