Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 28th Feb 2008 17:04 UTC, submitted by Moulinneuf
IBM IBM has unveiled its latest mainframe, the System z10. The product is designed to improve performance and reduce power requirements and cooling costs. The new machine, based on quad-core technology, is equivalent, in terms of performance to nearly 1500 x86 servers, according to IBM. The z10 is designed to be up to 50% faster and offers up to 100% performance improvement for CPU-intensive jobs compared with its predecessor, the z9, with up to 70% more capacity, IBM said. IBM said the new mainframe would also consume 85% less energy and have a footprint that is up to 85% smaller.
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Mainframes are not purchased for raw numerical performance - they are purchased for their rocksolid reliability where cost of failure and loss of service are considerable. The TCO factors in the cost of such failures (financial and reputational) along with the more usual savings in areas such as data center infrastructure and utility bills.

With a mainframe, you're paying for an incredible piece of engineering with no compromise on component quality and incredible levels of reliability out-of-the-box. We're talking run-time self-diagnostic fault isolation, fault-tolerant non-disruptive hot swappable components, execution integrity, in-flight processor migration from failing units, self-diagnosis and predictive deconfiguration of troublesome components, and the ability to remove *all* single points of failure -- short of someone nuking the site from orbit (along with the backup data centers).

Taking one specific example, processing units have internal mirror functionality, effectively executing instructions twice and comparing the result.

Its just unfortunate that, in our throw-away "made-in-China" society, people are so eager to disparage such levels of engineering and the intellectual R&D effort that underlies it.

With IBM though, one thing that annoys me considerably is the kneecaping of CPU speed (IBM calls it Capacity Upgrade on Demand) using microcode to insert null cycles into the instruction stream until you pay for a higher workload license. A "Customer Initiated Upgrade" can actually be done online, and this opens up the possibility for "remotely initiated downgrades". In fact, the system can automatically downgrade itself anyway as a result of certain expiration criteria.

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