IBM rolls out z13, repositions mainframe for mobile transactions

IBM's latest mainframe is being pitched to existing and new customers as a system that can handle all the transactions that flow through mobile devices.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

IBM is rolling out its latest mainframe, the z13, and the company is trying to reposition its warhorse computing system for the app economy and all of the transactions that go with it.

The z13 is important to IBM for a few reasons. First, IBM could use a new mainframe upgrade cycle to improve its hardware business, which has been downsized following the sale of commodity servers to Lenovo. The z13 is the first new mainframe in three years. And second, IBM has been trying to reposition the mainframe for years for everything from a cloud computing building block to part of the mobile economy. Big Blue sees the mainframe as a system that is reinvented continually.

But the reality is that the z13 will do well with existing clients such as financial institutions and retailers that are processing transactions at a rapid clip. For banking apps, it's safe to say that every transaction hits a mainframe at some point.

IBM said that the z13 reflects five years of development, more than 500 new patents, $1 billion in investment and collaboration with 60 customers. Overall, the z13 can process 2.5 billion transactions a day, or 100 Cyber Mondays every day.

The company will detail the z13 at a virtual event on Wednesday.

Among the key points and features:

  • The z13 provides real-time encryption for mobile transactions and 500 patented technologies for security. Many mobile transactions aren't encrypted.
  • IBM said analytics for mobile transactions can be run 17x faster than previous models.
  • There's support for Hadoop and the ability for unstructured data to be analyzed in the z13.
  • IBM included the ability to run up to 8,000 virtual servers and support for Linux, OpenStack and other platforms.
  • To go with those features, IBM is also previewing its z/OS software that includes the data and analytics enhancements.

IBM plans to take the z13 and combine it with its other services and technologies including MobileFirst, Protect, DB2 BLU for Linux, DB2 analytics accelerator and SPSS.

The big question for IBM customers is whether the mobile spin to the mainframe sticks. For a bank, or existing mainframe customer, the mobile friendly additions to the z13 will be a welcome addition. However, companies that aren't mainframe customers already are likely to stick with commodity hardware before they invest in IBM's go-to system. Pricing for the z13 depends on configuration, but the previous model ran as high as $1 million.

More: The Future of IT: A Strategic Guide

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