IBM retained the number 3 spot with 14.1% share for the quarter as revenue increased 8.9% year-over-year to $2.2 billion in 4Q15. More impressively, IBM experienced strong growth for POWER Systems and double-digit growth for its z System mainframes in the quarter, according to IDC. You can check out the IDC announcement here. IDC credits z and POWER for IBM’s strong platform finish in 2015.
DancingDinosaur has expected these results and been reporting IBM’s z System and POWER System successes for the past year. You can check it out here (z13s) and here (LinuxOne) and here (Power Systems LC).
Along with deservedly crowing about its latest IDC ranking IBM added: z Systems saw double digit growth due to a number of new portfolio enhancements. The next-generation z13 mainframe, optimized for digital businesses and hybrid cloud environments, is designed to handle mobile transactions securely and at scale, while enabling clients to run analytics on the system and in real time. IBM expanded its commitment to offering open-source on the mainframe by launching a line of Linux-only systems in August of 2015. LinuxONE is based on the latest generation of z Systems technology and enables popular open-source tools and software on the mainframe. IBM also added what amounts to a Business Class z with the z13s to go along with a Business Class dedicated Linux z, the LinuxONE Rockhopper.
Meanwhile, IBM has started to get some uptake for its Open Mainframe Project. In addition to announcing support from the usual mainframe suspects—IBM, CA, Compuware, SUSE, BMC, and others—it also announced its first projects. These include an effort to find ways to leverage new software and tools in the Linux environment that can better take advantage of the mainframe’s speed, security, scalability, and availability. DancingDinosaur is hoping that in time the Open Mainframe Project will produce the kind of results the Open POWER Foundation has recently generated for the POWER Platform
IBM attributes the growing traction of Linux running on POWER Systems in large part to optimized solutions such as DB2 BLU, SAP HANA, and other industry big data software, built on POWER Systems running Linux. In October 2015, IBM expanded its Linux on Power Systems portfolio with the LC line of servers. These servers are infused with OpenPOWER Foundation technology and bring the higher performance of the POWER CPU to the broad Linux community. The POWER-based LC line along with the z-based LinuxONE Rockhopper should give any data center manager looking to run a large, efficient Linux server farm a highly cost-competitive option that can rival or even beat the x86 option. And given that both platforms will handle Docker containers and microservices and support all of today’s popular development tools there is no reason to stick with x86.
From a platform standpoint, IBM appears to be in sync with what IDC is reporting: Datacenter buildout continues, and the main beneficiary this quarter is the density-optimized segment of the market, where growth easily outpaced the overall server market. Density-optimized servers achieved a 30.2% revenue growth rate this quarter, contributing a full 2 percentage points to the overall 5.2% revenue growth in the market.
“The fourth quarter (of 2015) was a solid close to a strong year of growth in the server market, driven by on premise refresh deployments as well as continued hyperscale cloud deployments,” said Kuba Stolarski, Research Director, Servers and Emerging Technologies at IDC. “As the cyclical refresh of 2015 comes to an end, the market focus has begun to shift towards software-defined infrastructure and hybrid environment management, as organizations begin to transform their IT infrastructure as well as prepare for the compute demands expected over the next few years from next-gen IT domains such as IoT and cognitive analytics. In the short term, 2016 looks to be a year of accelerated cloud infrastructure expansion with existing footprints filling out and new cloud datacenter buildouts across the globe.”
After a seemingly endless string of dismal quarters DancingDinosaur is encouraged by what IBM is doing now with the z, POWER Systems, and its strategic initiatives. With its strategic focus on cloud, mobile, big data analytics, cognitive computing, and IoT as well as its support for the latest approaches to software development, tools, and languages, IBM should be well positioned to continue its platform success in 2016.
DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.