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Senior Editor

The transformation of the mainframe

May 19, 20042 mins
Data CenterIBM

* A look at the evolution of the mainframe

The lead story in our Infrastructure section this week takes a look at the evolution of the mainframe, the Big Iron.  The key word for this data center stalwart is evolution.

IBM has worked long (40 years and counting) and hard at keeping the big box relevant – adding sophisticated virtualization and partitioning capabilities, paired with new and improved support for Linux and Java platforms in the form of offload engines, have made the mainframe an attractive platform for server consolidation, for example. It has succeeded in many cases, experts say. Our story looks at a few users employing the mainframe in these new environments and examines the results.

There is of course a flip side to the positive examples. Long time industry guru Bob Djurdjevic, president of Annex Research says: “You can change and adapt the environment in which [the mainframe] works, but you can’t turn it into something which it is not. People will have to get rid [of the mainframe] eventually just as they got rid of key punch machines and a myriad of other systems.”

Djurdjevic says the steady decline in mainframe revenue illustrates the trend, pointing out that IBM has seen mainframe revenue drop, save for an uptick last year – the first upswing in eight years, to where it accounts for just about 4% of Big Blue’s overall revenue.

But that’s still $4.2 billion, according to IDC estimates.

IBM doesn’t break out revenue for specific product lines, but did note in its annual report that zSeries revenue was up 7.4% in 2003, due in large part to the release of the z990 “T-Rex” last spring. In the first quarter this year, IBM reported that total delivery of zSeries computing power as measured in MIPS [Million Instructions Per Second] nearly doubled compared to the same quarter a year ago.

It’s an interesting story.  For more, see: