CIOs warm up to IBM’s mainframe virtualization strategy

NEW YORK  — IBM Corp. has announced what it calls its most sophisticated mainframe computer to date, the System Z9, and a new strategy aimed at simplifying data centre management that includes a promise to “virtualize” the entire

IT environment.

Available in September, the Z9 is designed to process more than one billion transactions per day, more than double the performance of its predecessor, the T-Rex zSeries z990 mainframe.

In conjunction with the announcement made Tuesday, IBM also unveiled Virtualization Engine 2.0 while underscoring the importance of the system to collaborative applications, especially in health care and enterprise supply chains.

“There are still areas where the mainframe excels,” said Erich Clementi, general manager, IBM Systems, just moments before pulling a large blanket off a Z9 machine in front of a crowd of media and analysts at Manhattan’s W hotel.

He cited “centralized security” as an example. Speaking specifically to the issue of missing data tapes, the Z9 will offer end-to-end encryption, including a built-in cryptography component supporting the open Advanced Encryption Standard. AES is designed to encrypt tapes shared between two parties and shuttled to different locations.

“This is a very specific role for the mainframe, something that it is destined to do,” he said.

Security, however, was just one facet of the announcement. IBM is also promising the Z9 comes with a simplified IT architecture and the ability to share ever-increasing amounts of data in collaborative environments.

Virtualization Engine 2.0 is responsible for managing server, storage and network resources, with key features added in the areas of console integration, autonomic computing and a standard resource interface. The engine allows users to, for example, discover all resources on an IP network and graphically display a system topology on a console.

At a CIO panel, Nigel Fortlage, vice-president of information technology at Winnipeg-based GHY International, a customs clearing and brokering firm, said “virtualization is now more than a pipe dream.

“We have gone from a situation where we spent 95 per cent of our time doing server management to only five per cent,” he said. This has freed his time to be more responsive to the needs of the business which is all-important when it comes to international trade.

“Everybody focuses on Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPPA, but since 9/11, increasing regulation and security concerns in the supply chain has forced us to more closely tie into our partners,” he said.

It was a concern shared by panelist Jim Dillon, CIO for New York State. Dillon said the amount of data is escalating while the need to share or collaborate across government departments is intensifying.

Mainframes are well suited for this role because they allow you to both “secure and share data” at the same time.

Dr. Nina Schwenk, IT committee chair for the Mayo Clinic said the same challenge exists in health care in the sharing of information, with an added caveat. “The promise of genomics is that we will be able to build a personalized profile of each patient which will move us into (an era of) individual care. That’s a lot of data.”

In conjunction with the Z9, IBM also announced the formation of the nine-member community, designed to accelerate the development of blade hardware and software technology.

The group, which includes Nortel Networks, will tackle issues such as scalability and interoperability in blade environments.

“What customers really want is an automated, virtualized environment,” said Diane Green, executive vice-president of EMC Corp., and one of the founding members. “But there is a lot more to do around the security and the provisioning of these systems.”

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