IBM unveils z890 mainframe server

It marks the 40th anniversary of its first mainframe computer

IBM today is marking the 40th anniversary of its first mainframe by introducing the zSeries 890 mainframe server for midsize enterprise customers.

"We're introducing a brand-new IBM eServer zSeries 890, and it's the latest and greatest in mainframe technology for smaller mainframe customers," said Colette Martin, IBM's director of zSeries product marketing. "Last year, we introduced the z990, which was aimed at our largest customers. The z890 now brings all that same technology to medium-size enterprises that really need all that mainframe security, availability and resiliency."

The z890 is capable of running Linux and mainframe operating systems at the same time, Martin said. It is also 30% smaller than the company's z800 mainframe.

Unlike the larger z990, which is powered by as many as four eight-processor "books" of CMOS processors, the z890 is a single-book system that can support up to four processors, called "engines" in mainframe parlance.

IBM also introduced the zSeries Application Assist Processor (zAAP), which is a specialized engine for z/OS-based Java workloads that will be available on the z890 and z990, Martin said. "This new technology will make running Java apps on the mainframe much more affordable," she said.

The company also announced a scaled-down model of its Enterprise Storage Server, commonly known as Shark.

"To go along with our baby zSeries, we have a baby Shark, and that's the ESS 750. It's very similar to what we've done in the server technology -- the storage technology is a smaller size and a smaller price for the medium-size enterprises," Martin said.

"With the integrated storage offering and the new zAAP engine, IBM may have some success in bringing the mainframe to new markets, but ultimately the z890 will have the greatest appeal for IBM's older System/360 and System/390 mainframe customers," said Charles King, a senior analyst at Mountain View, Calif.-based research firm The Sageza Group.

"There are a lot of old-line mainframe customers who are maybe running one or two mainframes -- older boxes mainly to support legacy applications. IBM has been trying to come up with something that offers the price-performance that will bring those people into the zSeries world."

IBM said the z890 will ship next month, with prices starting at $200,000. Prices for the ESS 750, which will also ship next month, will start at $100,000. The zAAP processor, available on June 30, will be priced at $125,000 per processor.

Also today, IBM said it was "previewing" the next version of its z/OS operating system, version 1.6, which should be available in September. This release will improve integration of Java workloads, workload management for Web applications and IP network availability, the company said.

The IDG News Service contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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