IBM, having happily extricated itself from the hard drive, printer, and PC markets, this week made a fresh commitment to one of the historic foundations of its business, the enterprise mainframe computer.
And it's a commitment that embraces new capacities for business analytics.
An IBM 704 Mainframe, 1964
(Source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory).
Announcing the launch today of its new enterprise mainframe system, the zEnterprise EC12, IBM emphasized the environment's "robust support for operational analytics that can help clients efficiently sift
through large volumes of raw data and transform it to gain knowledge that can be
used for competitive advantage."
Of course, IBM (which sponsors Internet Evolution), has been grooming the so-called "dinosaur" of commercial computing systems for its new role for several years now. Improvements in performance and software have solidified the appeal of zSeries mainframes, especially for larger corporations requiring reliability and resilience in handling huge quantities of data processing.
Indeed, so successful has the zSeries been for IBM that -- taking account of additional charges for software, servicing, and storage -- mainframes are estimated to account for 25 percent of IBM's revenue and 40 percent of its profits. So much for the dinosaur.
In the meantime, IBM has carefully re-positioned itself as a vendor of computing services rather than hardware, emphasizing smarter commerce, smarter analytics, and cloud computing. The zEnterprise EC12 is an effort to pull the threads together.
As a mainframe, the zEnterprise EC12 offers 25 percent more performance, and 50 percent more total capacity than its predecessor. Crucially, it boosts performance of analytics workloads by 30 percent, and incorporates the Netezza data warehouse appliance. Netezza is designed to serve multi-channel enterprises by collating and analysing real-time data from point-of-sale, call centers, eCommerce channels, and social media.
The system can also support private cloud architecture through consolidation of database workloads.
While the primary appeal of high cost systems such as the zEnterprise EC12 is to large corporations, some are finding that emerging enterprises also derive value from the investment. The New York Times gives the example of Comepay, a Russian startup that uses an IBM mainframe-based system to handle millions of transactions daily.
There's also little doubt that innovative research at the blue chip level can filter down and inform improvements to systems with more obvious midmarket appeal.
— Kim Davis , Community Editor, Internet Evolution