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IBM unmuzzles low-end "Raptor" mainframe

IBM on Monday will debut its newest model in the old-guard mainframe line, a less-expensive system code-named Raptor that can run only newer software.

The new z800 is in a sense mainframe "lite." With a stripped-down operating system called z/OS.e, it can run only newer programs such as Internet software, Siebel Systems' customer tracking software, or SAP's accounting and inventory software. The new system, the second with IBM's new 64-bit mainframe CPU, is profoundly important to IBM's server line. With its lower price and forward-looking software capability, it's the tip of the spear in IBM's continuing efforts to woo new buyers that for much of the 1990s the industry had given up for dead.

IBM loves mainframes because sales of the systems typically bring years of revenue from maintenance and software license agreements--just the type of recurring revenue that helped carry the company through the current economic downturn comparatively unscathed. Running Linux and other newer software has helped recharge IBM's mainframe business, the company and analysts say. Because of the new software, 2001 was "the first time in 13 years that mainframe revenues grew at all," Bill Zeitler, head of IBM's four server groups, said in an earlier interview. "Last year we had over 75 brand-new, non-mainframe customers who came to the platform via Linux. We do anticipate a fairly large number of customers who have not had the experience before," said Rich Lechner, vice president of marketing for IBM's eServer group.

The new system, with a starting price of $375,000--including three years of maintenance from IBM--may not sound cheap, but the cost is substantially lower than that of full-featured models that cost at least twice that.

News source: CNET.com

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