IBM Introduces Mobile-Centric Z13 Mainframe

IBM unveiled Tuesday its latest mainframe, a model targeting enterprise companies that are moving quickly into the mobile world where transactions happen by the millions each day, must be completed in a fraction of a second and need to be 100 percent secure.

IBM's new z13 is a follow-on to the zEnterprise BC12 mainframe released in 2013 and is targeted at such applications as mobile transactions, realtime data analytics, cloud computing, security and Linux. IBM claims the mainframes can be lower in cost to operate than a similarly optimized x86-based server infrastructure.

"With the z13, IBM has clearly evolved its mainframe when it comes to price and performance," said Rick Bailer, senior vice president of sales for Sirius Computer Solutions, one of IBM's largest solution providers. "The z13 brings more speed and memory to the table, and that's cool. It makes sense for customers to take advantage of the new tech. But for me, the bottom part of the iceberg with the z13 is how IBM has been evolving it to better support traditional workloads, such as DB2, and provide a platform for growth in mobility, big data and analytics."

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From a partner perspective, Bailer said, the enterprise-class z13 mainframes will appeal to a small, but meaningful, number of Sirius' customers. "Our clients have expressed a growing interest in tackling more complex workloads -- from cloud, analytics, mobile, security and social." IBM's z13 mainframes, Bailer said, will help fuel that growth for customers, and Sirius as well.

IBM said its new mainframe is the culmination of a $1 billion investment and five years of research and development. The system brings "scale and economics together with realtime encryption and analytics to meet the expectations of consumers for speed and safety for trillions of transactions in the mobile economy," according to IBM.

Among many "firsts" IBM touted with the z13 is an embedded analytics for realtime analysis of transactions 17 times faster than competing mainframes, an ability to process 2.5 billion transactions a day and a doubling of the speed it takes for realtime encryption of mobile transactions.

The main takeaway for partners, according to Deon Newman, IBM's vice president of marketing for IBM System z, is that the z13 family of mainframes is built to support anticipated growth in the coming years in mobile transactions and meet new, more stringent, security demands.

"For partners, the z13 delivers a whole, new generation of analytic capabilities to IBM's mainframe platform," Newman said. "That's a game-changer for partners. It allows them to move into a higher value space particularly where clients want to go, which is increasingly realtime analytics."

Newman added that the IT industry will benefit from z13 as it addresses nagging challenges, such as server sprawl, a new class of mobile applications and new system engagement around Linux. "The z13 is optimized for open environments. We are adding a lot of open software and making Linux a lot more enterprise-class."

The z13 in a scale-out model is capable of running up to 8,000 virtual servers -- more than 50 virtual servers per core -- allowing for lower software, energy and facilities costs, according to IBM. The z13 rolled into other Big Blue services and technologies such as MobileFirst, DB2 BLU for Linux, DB2 analytics accelerator and SPSS, IBM said.

As Moore's Law is tested by the limits of physics, Bailer said it wasn't just speeds and feeds alone that impressed him about IBM's mainframe systems. "The entire chip architecture is evolving -- it's an evolution of the z [systems] that take advantage of CPU multiprocessing and advanced instruction sets to achieve increased speeds."