Mainframe Propeller Head

Oct 28 2008   8:55PM GMT

A mainframe on layaway, and other IBM incentives

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

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In a move taken from auto dealerships and furniture companies, IBM is offering a way for mainframe users — or wannabe mainframe users — to get big iron now without having to pay for it until later.

Last week IBM announced the z10 Business Class, a smaller counterpart to its big honcho, the z10 Enterprise Class. The z10 BC starts at about $100,000. It’s far less than a seven- or eight-figure EC, but still, it’s not pocket change in this current economic climate. As part of the announcement, IBM is offering a financing deal. Order one now, and you don’t have to make a payment for 90 days.

Can you see the commercial now? Can you see the different color balloons floating around the mainframe retail store, luring unknowing customers into buying a mainframe? Actually, though, financing deals in the IT world are nothing new, said Mike Kahn of The Clipper Group.

“It’s an incentive to bring business in this year,” he said. “They’re ramping up product and getting it ready to ship. A lot of people would say they don’t have any budget left. The economy is down and they’ve blown their budget for this quarter. They might not have any money this quarter but they might have it next quarter.”

Kahn added that IT vendors often have end-of-the-year deals, where they might throw in extra memory at no cost to try to get product out the door by the end of the quarter. IBM’s move is just another end-of-year deal.

Specialty engines cut in half

The other big financial incentive that IBM announced at the same time was that the specialty engines for the z10 BC would be half price — so about $45,000 instead of almost $100,000.

The specialty engines include the zIIP, zAAP and IFL, which are geared toward running database, Java and Linux applications, respectively. Those less fond of IBM and its mainframe have called them stripped-down z/OS engines, and to an extent, that’s true. Either way, the specialty engines have offered a way to get traditionally non-mainframe applications — Linux and Java especially — running on big iron in a consolidated fashion on top of z/VM, big iron’s virtualization operating system.

During the announcement, IBM officials said they are gearing the z10 BC to be a big consolidation play, where users take a bunch of their x86 Linux servers and stuff them onto the mainframe. Reducing the cost of the specialty engines could help it work.

 “They believe this is a real opportunity for them and customers to rethink what they’re doing with these more open applications,” Kahn said.

Kahn added that if you’re running a z9 Business Class with specialty engines, and you decide to upgrade to the z10 Business Class, IBM will give you the upgraded specialty engine at no charge.

“That’s like if somebody says they’ll take old used tires off my car and give me better tires,” he said. “I could use a few of those deals in my life.”

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