IBM unleashes T-Rex

The mainframe may be a dinosaur, but it is a carnivorous one. That was IBM's message Tuesday at a press event in San Francisco where it launched its new line of mainframe computers, the first model of which is called the z990 -- code-named T-Rex.

IBM said that with the z990 it will be reducing the number of its mainframe offerings from 42 to 4, and that the first two of the two z990 products, the A08 and B16, are scheduled to become available on June 16.

These first systems ship with 16 processors -- the same number available in IBM's current z900 offerings. They will contain a new 16-chip multichip module that will be half the size of IBM's current offerings, and the modules will contain over 3.2 billion transistors, according to IBM. Built using IBM's Silicon-on-Insulator technology, these new chip modules will help account for a threefold performance improvement over IBM's current z990s, according to IBM.

In September of 2003, the mainframes will also ship with a new "On/Off Capacity on Demand" pricing structure that will allow mainframe customers to add computing capacity depending on their workload. "You can upgrade on demand," said Erich Clementi, the general manager of IBM's eServer zSeries. "We even introduced the capability to... downgrade on demand, which gives you the ability to absorb spikes in your workload," he added.

"The on Demand aspect is really a step in a good direction," said Fred Betito, a director with Levi Strauss & Co.'s Information Technology Technical Architecture Group. "Being able to just -- over the phone -- increase your capacity is something that is of great value."

Levi Strauss recently switched from Unix to an IBM z900 mainframe to run its SAP AG database server, said Betito.

The z990 is the product of four years and a US$1 billion investment in development work, said IBM Systems Group Senior Vice President Bill Zeitler.

After the initial two versions of the z990 are released in June, the follow up C24 and D32, both of which ship in 32-processor configurations, are scheduled to round out IBM's mainframe product line on October 31, according to IBM. Support for 30 logical partitions within the machines as well as secure key cryptography will be available around the same time, IBM said.

IBM claims that the z990 will be capable of 450 million e-business transactions per day.

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