China taps IBM mainframe for online services

Fujian province is using a mainframe as an integration point for several cloud services, IBM said

An IT services company in China has picked an IBM mainframe to provide online services for up to 300 million citizens, including many in rural areas who will access the services through kiosks in community centers and other public places, IBM said.

The mainframe acts as an integration point for services delivered by several departments and organizations throughout Fujian province in southeast China, including health care, Social Security, banking and education services.

Local service provider Yi Lian Zhong Information Technology picked the mainframe partly because it can handle the high volume of transactions the system is expected to generate, according to IBM.

"Scale is considerably different in China. A small bank is 100 million customers," said Bill Reeder, IBM worldwide zEnterprise Cloud and Linux sales leader.

The system provides citizens with access to the various services through a single Web portal. They swipe their identity card at the kiosks and can pay bills, look for jobs, submit housing applications and collect farming and fuel subsidies.

YLZ picked a z10 Business Class mainframe, one of the smaller models aimed at mid-sized companies. It's the size of a large refrigerator and can do the work of 232 x86 servers, IBM said when it launched the system a few years ago.

The mainframe is supplementing Sparc-based systems that were running out of capacity, Reeder said. The Sparc systems continue to run the portal site, using Oracle's database and WebLogic middleware.

Software connectors link the mainframe to each local department providing the services. YLZ will extend the system from Fujian to seven other provinces, covering about 300 million people, according to IBM.

IBM was keen to publicize the deal, which shows how developing countries are adopting mainframes to support large-scale online services. It has also announced mainframe deals in India and Namibia, in southern Africa.

IBM said more than a third of the new customers for its z196 mainframe, which started shipping last year, are in growth markets, or countries outside of Japan, western Europe and North America.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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