All the signs coming out of Armonk or Poughkeepsie or wherever the System z calls home for the past six months or longer point to big things about the break in the System z world. Even a year ago IBM was not so subtly telegraphing a new mainframe, what was being referred to then as a Hybrid System z machine.
Since then IBM has kept dropping hints about the new z at briefing after briefing—new processor, new optimization features, cross-platform capabilities, etc. etc. Even as they were talking about the new POWER7 System P machines the System z was there in the room like the proverbial elephant no one mentions.
The hype drumbeat for a new platform picked up even more in the past couple weeks as IT editors and analyst firms that cover mainframe computing were alerted to standby for briefings coming sometime this summer. IBM isn’t referring to it as a new z or a hybrid z or any kind of z at all. Taking its cue from the Harry Potter books, it sounds more like the platform that must not be named.
So it is surprising that The Register, a Brit publication that usually is right on top of System z issues suddenly dissed the z: “The big three Unix vendors – IBM, HP, and Oracle – are in product transitions right now, and IBM’s System z business is stuck in the tar pits as mainframe shops await upgraded systems that will be coming sometime in the second half of this year.” At least the Register isn’t bashful about referring to the new mainframe by name, the System z11.
Tar pits? Tar pits! That’s laying it on a bit thick. The IBM mainframe numbers haven’t been much to brag about, but they are understandable given a deep economic slump followed by, at best, a sputtering economic recovery and the widespread expectation of a new mainframe before the end of the year. Expectations of a major upgrade inevitably freeze new sales while companies wait to check out the newest stuff.
Yet, companies continue to invest heavily in the current System z machines. Last year Travelport, a leading travel transaction processing company invested in a series of six clustered z9 EC machines connected to a 316TB IBM System Storage DS8300 integrated with IBM System x and Power System distributed servers, as well as IBM DataPower XML appliances.
But Travelport didn’t stop there. This spring the company upgraded to ten z10 EC machines along with a bunch of new software from IBM to enable Travelport to develop and deploy new and richer services faster and more efficiently. Here is the latest announcement. And it made these decisions without waiting for any upcoming platform introduction.
It doesn’t take much at this point to guess what the new z will look like, at least in general terms since the specific speeds and feeds are being closely guarded: Sixty-four-bit through and through for sure, optimized for SOA and BI and probably mobile too, all the while being able to leap tall buildings (or cross some platforms at least) in a single bound. On my wish list: support for Solaris on z, and Hadoop. Stay tuned.