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IBM mainframe price cuts hailed as 'biggest change in 20 years'

Cliff Saran

IBM has made radical changes to the pricing of its flagship zSeries mainframes.

Memory has now been reduced to $10,000 (£6,400) per gigabyte; pricing for running Linux processors has been fixed at $125,000; and IBM is also offering large discounts for users running new applications on the mainframe.

Phil Payne, principal at Isham Research, said, "This is the biggest change in mainframe pricing that I have seen in the past 20 years." However, he pointed out that the new pricing for the zSeries was still about 30% higher than Hewlett-Packard’s Superdome and Sun’s E16000 Unix server family.

Through the new pricing, users will get more for the same money, and memory price has been reduced from its original list price of $50,000 per gigabyte to $10,000 per gigabyte. The base memory shipped on the zSeries has also doubled, from 8Gbytes to 16Gbytes, giving users twice the memory for the same price. IBM has also fixed the cost of Linux computing on the mainframe. The price is now $125,000 per mainframe processor running Linux.

For Payne, the most significant change to the pricing relates to the cost of software. Users running applications that are new to the mainframe - either bespoke or commercial - only pay 10% of the licensing costs for the IBM software they use. Payne said this would mean a user running a DB/2 and Websphere-based application on z/OS would pay 10% of the current list price for their DB/2, Websphere and z/OS software.

"Anybody who thought that mainframes were too expensive should review their attitude," he said.

Payne said the z900 and z990 mainframes were particularly suited for applications involving Linux consolidation. Although users would not necessarily buy a mainframe for its outright performance, Payne said, "You choose a mainframe for its reliability and virtualisation capabilities."

Along with extremely high levels of reliability, Payne said the virtualisation features on the mainframe simplify administration.

Julie-Ann Williams, chairman of the large systems working group at GuideShare Europe, a non-profit association of companies representing users running IBM architectures, said the new pricing was more cost effective for users. "Software costs have been a big block for mainframe users," she said.

Williams said the mainframe is a superb platform for running multiple copies of Linux. Each partition on a mainframe is capable of running 10,000 instances of Linux. IBM’s roadmap for the z990 will lead to a mainframe capable of running up to 60 partitions - making it possible to run 600,000 Linux instances.

In a recent paper on pricing, Gartner research vice-president Mike Chuba advised users to check that their software invoices issued after 1 October reflected the new pricing.

"Enterprises that could not previously justify migration to the z900 or z990 should ask IBM to run the software cost projections again to see if the economics have changed," he said.


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