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IBM Boosts Mainframe Offerings

IBM unveiled Thursday a number of technology and marketing initiatives aimed at boosting the use of its mainframe computers in the financial sector and other markets.

The company is opening a mainframe technology showcase for the banking industry in Montpellier, France. The center is designed to show how mainframes can be applied to back-office tasks such as account reconciliation and funds tracking. The company also has created industry-specific reference architectures that outline the most efficient ways to build a computing environment using mainframe technology. IBM is working with a number of universities here and abroad, including Indiana State University and Northeastern Illinois University, to produce 20,000 mainframe-trained workers by 2010.

IBM outlined a technology road map for its zSeries mainframe computer focused on making it a foundation for distributed, heterogeneous computing infrastructures. "We want to extend the mainframe's capabilities further out into the enterprise," says Colette Martin, IBM's zSeries program director.

Toward that, IBM is working to enhance its geographically dispersed parallel sysplex technology to let a zSeries mainframe provide back-up and recovery capabilities throughout an entire business computing network. IBM wants to make the mainframe capable of backing up and recovering not only the transactions that it handles, but also transactions performed by other servers on a network. That could, Martin says, allow a company to preserve an E-commerce transaction in the event of a network failure. "Right now we can back up the data but the transaction would be interrupted and sales would be lost," Martin says. IBM expects to deliver that capability in 2005.

IBM also is porting some of its load-balancing technology to the zSeries. It plans to unveil Enterprise Workload Manager for z/OS in the fourth quarter. Martin says IBM also is working with independent software vendors to develop more Linux applications for the zSeries. Analyst Mike Kahn of the Clipper Group thinks that's a smart strategy. "It opens up mainframe computing to a wider set of users," he says. IBM has plenty of incentive to continue boosting the capabilities of its zSeries--it's one of the company's fastest-growing offerings. IBM's zSeries-related sales jumped 40.6% year-over-year in the second quarter to $1.5 billion.