Hitachi (finally) releases Skyline Trinium Nine high-end mainframe

After taking a pounding from IBM in the mainframe market the last two years, Hitachi Data Systems today announced new high-end systems that are supposed to provide nearly twice the power of IBM's biggest System/390s.

Hitachi said its System/390-compatible Skyline Trinium Nine Series can crunch 262 MIPS per processor and support up to 16 CPUs in a single enclosure. Performance on a full system should top 3,000 MIPS, compared with a ceiling of 1,600 MIPS on the 12-processor System/390 Generation 6 line that IBM shipped last year.

But Carl Greiner, an analyst at Meta Group Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said the Trinium Nine machines have been slow in coming. And that cost Santa Clara, Calif.-based Hitachi a lot of potential business last year, he added.

The Trinium Nine series was originally aimed at shipment last fall, but Greiner said development problems limited Hitachi to releasing a 12-processor version that didn't leapfrog IBM's machines enough to provide a compelling alternative.

As a result, Hitachi's 1999 sales were "absolutely terrible," Greiner said. Hitachi "almost fell off the map in '99. IBM went after them, and they couldn't hold their own. Now, they've got a big banger out there again."

Hitachi Data Systems, a subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd. in Japan, said the Trinium Nine systems are targeted at the top 5% of corporate users with intensive information technology processing needs. Companies that have signed on to buy the new machines include San Francisco-based brokerage Charles Schwab & Co. and Telcel, a cellular communications company in Mexico, Hitachi said.

Like earlier Skyline models, the Trinium Nines are based on hybrid processors that combine the lower power consumption and floorspace savings of CMOS technology with the speed of the emitter-coupled logic designs that older mainframes used.

Mainframe vendors typically don't publish list prices. But Greiner said Meta Group has seen Trinium Nine bids from Hitachi that range from $1,700 to $2,000 per MIPS.

Hitachi had a 21% share of the mainframe market in 1997 but dropped back to 14% two years ago, Greiner said. And for 1999, he estimated, IBM's market share should be "well over 85%."

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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