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IBM, buoyed by four consecutive quarters of growth in its mainframe business, is looking to extend the reach of its zSeries systems.

In a series of announcements this week, officials with the Armonk, N.Y., company said they want to take the traditional strengths of the mainframe—including reliability, security and scalability—and illustrate how the systems can fit into a more modern and flexible on-demand environment.

“We want to take the strengths of the zSeries today and make them available to a broader [customer base],” said David Mastrobattista, marketing manager with the zSeries line.

Mastrobattista said the announcements were a follow-on to the mainframe charter IBM announced in August 2003, where officials reaffirmed their commitment to the platform, and the infrastructure simplification initiative announced in October 2003, where the mainframe was pegged as a key tool in decreasing complexity in the data center.

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For example, IBM this week rolled out the first reference architecture for the mainframe, aimed at making it easier for users to establish a mainframe-based environment by having an outline already in place. IBM is targeting the reference architectures at particular verticals, starting with the financial services industry. That will be followed in 2005 by reference architectures for other such segments as the insurance industry and government, Mastrobattista said.

Financial services firms were a major focus of the announcements this week. In addition to the reference architectures, IBM opened an on-demand environment for banking to illustrate how mainframes can work in that industry. The new operation was opened within IBM’s testing center in Montpelier, France.

In addition, IBM unveiled the z/Transaction Processing Facility operating environment for high-transaction industries, including banking, travel and the public sector. The new transaction engine not only supports the zSeries architecture, but also Linux and can process up to 25,000 transactions per second, according to officials.

IBM also announced it is working with software makers to grow the number of applications that can run on the mainframes, Mastrobattista said. In 2003, more than 50 new ISVs started porting their applications to the zSeries, he said. This year, more than 40 have started writing to the mainframes.

Currently there are more than 1,000 ISVs writing applications for the zSeries, and IBM hopes to grow that to 20,000 by 2010, Mastrobattista said.

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