IBM readies T-Rex mainframe for Tuesday launch

IBM will launch its next generation of mainframe computers, the first model of which will be called the z990, at an event in San Francisco Tuesday, according to an industry analyst.

Also expected are announcements from IBM's Global Services group, IBM Corp. said.

At the heart of Tuesday's announcement will be the z990, code named T-Rex, said Illuminata Inc. analyst Gordon Haff. The new mainframe will include a processor upgrade and support for a larger number of logical partitions than IBM's current z900 model, according to Haff. It will initially ship with 32 processors, but 48- and 64-processor systems are planned for the end of this year and 2004, respectively, he said.

IBM is expected to announce new performance numbers for the mainframe as part of an effort to convince a skeptical industry that the mainframe remains relevant, Haff said.

"If you look at your typical mainframe announcement in the past, it was like you'd been tossed into ancient Sumeria. Everyone was speaking this language that had very little in common with IT on the whole," Haff said. "What you're seeing here, in terms of the materials I've seen so far (is that) IBM's making a real effort to introduce this (new) server as something that fits into the server line as a whole and isn't arcane."

IBM's recent success with Linux on the mainframe -- which Big Blue claims accounted for 17 percent of 2002 mainframe revenues -- has given the computer maker an impetus to promote the big iron for new workloads, Haff said.

Harry Roberts, the chief information officer with Pennsylvania-based retailer Boscov's Department Stores LLC said that his company has found the mainframe ideal for server farm consolidation. Boscov's managed to halve the number of systems in its 90-system server farm by transferring applications to Linux running on the mainframe, Roberts said. "The T-Rex is the next step in the evolution of the enterprise server, and promises some even better performance for its Linux applications support," he said in an e-mail interview.

"This isn't the mainframe of our youth," he added. "This is a flexible, sophisticated enterprise computing platform."

Analysts said that T-Rex could be crucial for IBM as the company is expected to target about half of its 3,000 customer-strong z800 and z900 installed base with the new system. Total mainframe sales made up about US$3 billion of IBM's $81 billion in revenue for 2002.

IBM declined to comment on the specifics of Tuesday's announcement.

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