This week IBM is celebrating the 50th anniversary of System/360 mainframes by announcing new cloud services for businesses. The new services include the first System z-based integrated system for the cloud, called the Enterprise Cloud System.
The System/360 mainframe, first shown on April 7, 1964 -- when Lyndon B. Johnson was president -- was the first system whose processors could be upgraded while keeping the same software and peripherals. The term "main frame" came from older equipment where extras were added to frames, as well as from the main frame telephone exchange that housed incoming lines.
The announcements also include a pricing model where service providers can pay for mainframe cloud infrastructure based on computing load consumed. When used in a cloud environment, IBM has estimated that System z mainframes, the descendants of System 360, run Linux at about half the cost of x86-based cloud environments.
Enterprise Cloud System
The Enterprise Cloud System is an integrated platform using open standards. One system can support up to 6,000 virtual machines, offering a multi-tenant environment and sharing resources dynamically. The Enterprise Cloud System is factory-built and configured for rapid deployment, and combines System z hardware with storage and cloud management from IBM.
Charles King, principal analyst at industry research firm Pund-IT, told us that "for many people, conceiving IBM’s System z as a cloud platform will be a stretch."
He added that's "mainly because cloud began with and largely continues to be driven by highly virtualized scale-out x86 server technologies. But the fact is that the IBM mainframe supports all traditional cloud capabilities, as well as higher levels of native security, scalability and reliability."
King also noted that IBM has configured the mainframe cloud as primarily a Linux-based system to lower acquisition costs and to open the platform to developers who don't primarily code mainframes. System z will be available as an option.
'Mainframes Still Needed'
IBM is also announcing a new pricing model for mobile workloads using System z, which it said can reduce pricing by as much as 60 percent for mobile needs. It also is now offering the first commercial Hadoop big data framework for Linux on System z, in collaboration with Veristorm, as well as a faster generation of flash storage for mainframes and a new version of the IBM CICS Transaction Server.
Roger Kay, an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, noted that virtualized computing power in the cloud can handle many of the tasks that used to be handled by mainframes. "But there are still needs for mainframes," he said, for processing-heavy workloads in astrophysics, brain mapping, seismic calculations and similar areas. He also noted that costs could be less for mainframe-based cloud computing, as IBM claims, because of "shared infrastructure."
Also unveiled are several new mainframe-based analytical projects. In one, IBM Research is working with municipalities and business partners to help state and local agencies move IT operations to a System z-based cloud environment. The company said that such an arrangement helps agencies share data.
In another project, IBM Research and the Arthritis Foundation are developing predictive models for determining which patients are most likely to respond to anti-Tumor Necrosis Factor therapy.