Ahead of a 50th anniversary event in New York City later Tuesday, IBM has unveiled a slew of System z mainframe announcements. These include System z for Mobile Computing, which is geared toward developing and deploying mobile applications. One early adopter is First National Bank (FNB) in Africa, which has used the technology to create new banking tools, swelling its mobile transactions to more than 230 million a month.
IBM is also touting a new pricing mobile model which lets mainframe customers pay only for the computing power they use. Also known by the nickname "big iron," mainframe hardware is typically used to handle large scale data processing. IBM has worked hard to keep the technology relevant during its five-decade history.
Charles King, principal analyst at tech research firm Pund-IT, said he thinks that the decision to target the mainframe at mobile is a shrewd move which will extend the technology's lifespan.
"IBM's leveraging their mainframe for the mobile world makes perfect sense," he told TheStreet. "I think the bottom line message is that a 50-year old mainframe looks remarkably young for its age - that's a testimony to the innovation that IBM has managed to imbue in the mainframe platform."
King pointed, in particular, to IBM's decision to embrace Linux in the 1990s, which he described as a watershed moment, opening up the platform to a new generation of technologists and modern workloads.
Cloud, of course, is another big tech buzzword, and features prominently in IBM's big mainframe push. The company announced the IBM Cloud Enterprise System, aimed at enterprises and service providers that want to quickly build out cloud environments. Again, IBM is offering a flexible utility pricing model that will let service providers pay for Linux-based mainframe infrastructure based on compute consumption over a period of time, as opposed to the actual capacity of the system being used.
Emirates Airlines, which already uses the System z for its ticketing and reservations system, plans to use the technology to expand its mobile and cloud efforts, according to a statement released earlier today.
Other announcements from IBM Tuesday include zDoop software, developed in partnership with Veristorm and the first commercial version of Hadoop for Linux on System z. Hadoop is an open source software for processing large sets of data across clusters of hardware. Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM also unveiled new Flash storage for mainframe devices and a new version of its CICS Transaction Server technology for handling large transaction volumes.
Keen to ensure that future generations of IT managers become familiar with mainframes, IBM also announced three new online courses offered through partnerships with Syracuse University, Marist College and the Linux Foundation. The firm already offers its IBM Academic Initiative, which provides mainframe educational resources to schools.
In her annual letter to shareholders last month, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty vowed to maintain the company's significant presence in hardware, highlighting, in particular, its mainframe business.
IBM's System z mainframes also feature prominently in the company's recently announced partnership with the government of Ghana and Yale University to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV in the African nation.
During IBM's recent fourth quarter, however, System z revenue decreased 37% year over year, although Big Blue attributed this to the technology's very strong performance in the year-ago quarter. Total System z computing power, which is measured in millions of instructions per second (MIPs), was down 26% year over year from a quarter that saw the largest MIPS shipment in the company's history.
Nonetheless, IBM Chief Financial Officer Martin Schroeter described System z as "secularly strong with a solid business model" during the conference call to discuss the fourth-quarter results.
IBM shares, which have slipped 7.11% over the last 12 months, gained 1.43% on Monday to close at $194.52.
--Written by James Rogers in New York.
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