IBM updates its skinny mainframe lineup

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When you think of mainframes, chances are you are thinking about some massive piece of hardware that costs millions and can be used as furniture. Now, IBM wants to change that perception with the launch of its latest additions to its Z-series machines, the IBM z14 Model ZR1, that’s basically a standard 19-inch server rack. With its single-frame design, this new mainframe easily fits into any standard cloud data center or private cloud environment. In addition to the new z14, IBM is also launching an update to the similarly sized Rockhopper server.

In many ways, the new z14 ZR1 is the successor of the company’s entry-level z13s mainframe(though, I guess we can argue over the fact whether any mainframe is really ‘entry-level’ to begin with). IBM says the new z14 offers 10 percent more capacity and twice the memory (a whopping 8 terabyte) of its predecessor and that it can handle more than 850 million fully encrypted transactions per day on a single system (though IBM didn’t go into details as to what kind of transactions we’re talking about here.

“This will bring the power of the IBM Z to an even broader center of clients seeking robust security with pervasive encryption, machine learning, cloud capabilities and powerful analytics,”said Ross Mauri, general manager of IBM Z, in today’s announcement. “Not only does this increase security and capability in on-premises and hybrid cloud environments for clients, we also will deploy the new systems in our IBM public cloud data centers as we focus on enhancing security and performance for increasingly intensive data loads.”

Mainframes, it’s worth noting, may not be the sexiest computing segment out there, but they remain a solid business for IBM and even in the age of microservices, plenty of companies, especially in the financial services industry, are still betting on these high-powered machines. According to IBM, 44 of the top 50 banks and 90 percent of the largest airlines use its Z-series mainframes today. Unlike its gigantuous predecessors, today’s mainframes don’t need special cooling or energy supplies and these days, they happily run Linux and all of your standard software, too.

In addition to the ZR1, IBM also today launched the LinuxONE Rockhopper II, a more traditional Linux server that also fits into a single-frame 19-inch rack. The new Rockhopper now also support up to 8 terabytes of memory and can handle up to 330,000 Docker containers. While the ZR1 is for companies that want to update their current mainframes, the Rockhopper II is clearly geared toward companies that have started to rethink their software architecture with modern DevOps practices in mind.