IBM rolls out new CMOS products

IBM Corp. last week introduced a new family of microprocessor-based System/390 mainframes that supersedes the capacity of the largest systems based on older processor technology.

In addition to the new hardware IBM introduced a new version of its Unix-branded OS/390 operating system along with other software that position the mainframe as a central server for a distributed environment.

The S/390 Parallel Enterprise Server Generation 4 (G4) series - based on CMOS processors used in PCs - ranges in capacity from a low-end system that can handle about 50 million of instructions per second (MIPS) to a high-end system that exceeds 400 MIPS.

The high-end system exceeds the high-end capacity of IBM's largest mainframes which used older more expensive bipolar processing technology - a first for the CMOS generation of mainframes introduced in 1994.

In announcing "the end of bipolar development activity " Linda Sanford general manager of IBM's S/390 Division said "We are delivering a CMOS system that is as powerful as our last bipolar system and much less expensive than bipolar [technology] could ever hope to be."

Wendy Culberson large-systems brand manger for federal marketing at IBM Government Systems said she expected a smooth transition for customers of the older technology. "We've seen wide acceptance in the government marketplace for our CMOS generation in general. We think this will allow us to replace the rest of the bipolar systems that are out there " she said.

The G4 systems incorporate a new chip architecture tailored to ensure data reliability without compromising performance.

According to IBM a single microprocessor is composed of a pair of redundant processing units wired identically and executing each instruction in parallel. Should one unit fail the other can pick up processing automatically. Additionally the S/390 chips feature an error-checking unit that monitors the states of the two units should one fall out of sync the checking unit will stop the processing units and reset them.

This architecture manages to provide high reliability without adding overhead that would slow down performance said Paul Turgeon senior engineering manager for S/390 custom design.

With its new hardware architecture fully in place IBM now is focusing on positioning the mainframe to play a role in organizations moving toward network computing electronic commerce and emerging distributed computing strategies.

OS/390 Version 2 - expected to be available in September - adds more than a dozen new components to IBM's mainframe operating system including Encina transaction processing monitor software from IBM's Transarc Corp. subsidiary and firewall technology called the S/390 Cryptographic Coprocessor. IBM also is adding Lotus Go Webserver from IBM subsidiary Lotus Development Corp. for creating secure Internet sites for transaction processing. Lotus Go Webserver combines OS/390's existing Internet Connection Secure Server with World Wide Web-based search technology. Meanwhile integration of Tivoli Systems Inc.'s TME 10 systems management framework will provide a centralized view of the distributed environment. Tivoli is also an IBM subsidiary.

"The integration of more features and function in OS/390 makes it less complex for customers who need that additional functionality " said Steve Josselyn research director for commercial systems and servers at International Data Corp. "Anything that reduces the complexity of a customer's buying decisions I think is very important."

IBM announced a host of other software for the OS/390 that targets network computing and EC requirements including application servers and connectivity software for Transaction Control Protocol/Internet Protocol and other protocols.

Bob Simko an executive director at the International Technology Group a research and consulting firm based in Mountain View Calif. described the new S/390 as a "scalability staircase" - a platform for consolidating resources in larger and larger centralized pools.

EC and similar applications require organizations to have "highly centralized resources to manage a distributed environment " Simko said. In buying enterprise servers users need platforms that can scale as those resources grow.

"The issue is not the technology the issue is the architecture " Simko said. "What you want is the largest possible server with the highest possible range of scalability."

Culberson said this push toward consolidation of federal data centers is in turn creating interest in network computing-related technology. "Agencies are interested in providing the data to other offices in a department or to the public and they will need the availability and scalability" the G4 systems offer he said.


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