IBM intros entry-level System z10 mainframe for under $100,000

IBM is today rolling out a sub-$100,000 "business class" edition of the System z10, an innovative "baby mainframe" first unveiled as an "enterprise class" machine in February, geared to mid-sized companies and emerging markets.

At press conferences in Switzerland, South Africa, and Singapore, IBM is today launching what it's calling a "baby mainframe" priced at below $100,000. IBM's new System z10 Business Class (z10 BC) is an entry-level edition of the System z10 Enterprise Class (EC) announced earlier this year at a New York City press event, which is priced more in the $1,000,000 bracket.

The z10 BC provides most of the same hardware innovations -- including the Enterprise Quad Processor z10 processor chip with hardware accelerators and cryptographic functions -- as the z10 EC, IBM said in a statement today.

During an interview with BetaNews in February, Jim Porell, an IBM Distinguished Engineer, attributed the speed boost in the z10 EC over its z9 EC predecessor to a combination of "dramatically faster chips," greater capacity, and a tripling in cache memory size.

The new z10 BC announced today offers about 50 percent more total capacity, 40 percent more speed, and four times as much maximum memory as its own predecessor, the largest IBM z9 BC, IBM officials said today. It's being billed as accommodating the same capacity as about 116 x86 servers. Like the z9 BC, IBM's latest baby mainframe is geared largely to making it easier and cheaper for companies -- including those in farflung international locations -- to consolidate applications running on myriad PC servers on to much smaller numbers of mainframe machines.

Also like the z9, the new sub-$100,000 mainframe is tailored to running not just traditional mainframe apps, but also newer apps in the social networking and mobile commerce categories, for instance, through the use of "specialized engine" processors for Lotus Domino, Linux, Java, SAP, and other apps.

Meanwhile, IBM Global Financing is now offering "Why Wait," a no-interest, no-payments program for 90 days deferral to qualified customers buying a z10 BC by the end of this year.

Like many other US-based computer hardware and software makers, IBM has been deriving an increasing percentage of its sales revenue in recent years from customers outside the US.

Some other OEMs -- including Dell, with its announcement of new Windows- and Ubuntu Linux-based desktop and notebook PCs in August -- have also been creating special product line-ups with lower pricing, targeted at emerging markets.

Despite the global economic slowdown, IBM's mainframe division has fared well with the System z10 EC, posting a 25% increase in sales revenues for the third quarter of 2008 over the same period last year. In comparison, IBM's Systems and Technology group -- which includes the mainframe division, other hardware units, and IBM Microelectronics -- dropped 9.5% during the quarter.

"System z continued to sell very well, even in a tough environment," maintained Mark Loughridge, IBM's CFO, during a conference call with analysts in mid-October.

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