Listen up, boys and girls, the mainframe is not dead; in fact, it’s very much alive. Every few years, people predict that the mainframe is on its last legs and will be taken over by the technology du jour.
That replacement technology has ranged over the years from client-server computing to Web-based computing, and, now, it’s cheap, commodity x86-based servers. Don’t believe a word of it — mainframe sales have begun climbing again.
IDC analyst Steve Josselyn told InternetNews.comthat he expects IBM’s worldwide mainframe revenues to grow four percent this year. That doesn’t sound like much until you realize Big Blue reaped $4.6 billion from mainframe sales worldwide last year.
Admittedly, that was somewhat shy of the $5.2 billion IBM chalked up for 2006, but that was because, first, the z10 was rolled out only in early 2008, 24 months after the previous mainframe product instead of the 12 to 18 months IBM normally takes.
Savvy customers who could hang on instead of upgrading sent IBM mainframe sales falling in the second half of 2007 because they decided to wait until the new product was released, Josselyn said.
“Nobody wants to buy at the end of a product cycle and have the residual value tank when the new model comes out,” he explained. The result was a surge in demand this year, Josselyn said.
IBM Distinguished Engineer Jim Porell demand for mainframes has gone up because the mainframe has more capacity, is more powerful, and its electricity consumption is relatively low.
Mainframes “have 64-bit processors and 384 power processors which do I/O processing; they have cryptography, compression and network engines on board, all of which are redundant, and they have spare mainframe engines,” he said. “All this comes as part of the mainframe.”
A mainframe’s capacity is large enough that it enables massive consolidation, which helps slash costs. According to Porell, one IBM customer redeployed 800 Linux, Windows and Unix boxes on 26 of the 64 cores of a z10 mainframe, leading to ” a tremendous saving in software licensing costs, power, cooling, and space.”
Further, one z10 mainframe consumes about the same amount of electricity as a rack of blade servers, according to Porell. “We have all kinds of monitors and automation around energy consumption and management,” he added.