IBM's new mainframe comes with retail-like financing

The z10 Business Class costs less than $100k

IBM today released the junior version of its big System z10 Enterprise Class mainframe with an introductory price of less than $100,000, about one-tenth the cost of its top-end system.

The new system, the z10 Business Class (BC), features a 3.5-GHz processor and is about 40% faster than its predecessor, the z9 BC, which came out about three years ago, according to IBM.

Although the z10 BC is the compact version of its larger sibling, it offers similar capabilities, including encryption and partitioning. Where the z10 EC offers the equivalent capacity of 1,500 x86 servers, the z10 BC can accommodate up to 232 x86 servers -- while taking up very little data center space, according to IBM.

The z10 BC runs Linux and the z/OS operating system and competes against midrange Unix and x86 systems running large databases and ERP apps, as well as systems working as consolidation platforms.

To help sweeten the deal for its customers in the current uncertain economic environment, IBM is offering the kind of financing terms retailers sometimes offer to consumers: 90-day deferral on payments, with no additional interest -- provided the system is ordered before the end of the year.

IBM has its own financing capability, and this particular deal -- which IBM is calling "Why Wait?" -- is "an acknowledgement of tightening in the credit markets," said David Gelardi, vice president of IBM Systems and Technology Group Worldwide Client Centers.

The entry-level system is configured with 8GB of usable memory capable of 26 MIPS.

Brad Day, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., said IBM is competing with big-iron alternatives, including its own System P, as well as users who want to take advantage of specialty processing engines available on the mainframe, such as the zAAP, which is aimed at Java workloads. The system may also serve as an upgrade path for mainframe users who don't need a larger system.

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