Meet IBM's new $75,000 mainframe

New zEnterprise 114 is primarily competing against a Linux server running on an x86 platform, analyst says

IBM never talks about the cost of its high-end mainframes, but when it comes to its low-end mainframe, price is a major focal point.

IBM is today announcing the latest successor to what it has called its "business-class" system, the zEnterprise 114, with a starting price of $75,000 -- 25% lower than the previous system in this category.

That earlier system, the z10 Business Class, was released in 2008 . This new mainframe has 25% more performance than the earlier system, said IBM , but also includes some of the same capabilities of its top end mainframe, the zEnterprise 196 , which was released last year.

The zEnterprise 114 is described by IBM as the 196 equivalent but for mid-size customers. Similar to the high-end mainframe, the 114 includes the ability to manage and share data and workloads running on Power and x86 blades.

IBM plans to add Windows support later in the year to this hybrid model.

For users with servers that are in need of an upgrade, the zEnterprise 114 may give them the option of consolidating workloads, said Mike Kahn, an analyst at The Clipper Group. "This hybrid is the big new wild card for IBM mainframes," he said.

This zEnterprise 114 is primarily competing against a Linux server running on an x86 platform, said Kahn. "The large growth in mainframe consumption has been on what IBM calls new workloads or applications, which tend to be things running on Linux," he said.

When the z10 BC was released, IBM said it could support up to 232 x86 servers; this new system can support up to 300 x86 systems.

The zEnterprise 114 uses a 3.8GHz processor in contrast to the 5.2GHz processor that shipped with the release last year of the zEnterprise 196, its top end system.

IBM never discloses its top mainframe pricing but depending on how the system is configured it's believed to cost in the high six figures, and well beyond.

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com .

Read more about mainframes and supercomputers in Computerworld's Mainframes and Supercomputers Topic Center.

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