Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

IBM is looking to make the mainframe more attractive to SMB customers and emerging markets.

The Armonk, N.Y., company in May will launch the System z9 Business Class mainframe, with a starting price of $100,000 and a host of new specialty engines and security features.

IBM officials are making the announcement April 27 in China, at the same time they are unveiling a new laboratory in Shanghai designed to enhance the mainframe platform’s Linux capabilities and server System z9 customers in that country.

“We’re really going after the small and medium businesses” with the new mainframe, said Jim Porell, IBM distinguished engineer and chief architect of mainframe software.

The z9 Business Class system also represents a step in IBM’s initiative to rebrand its server lines. On April 21, the company unveiled System x, which replaces its eServer xSeries family of Intel-based servers.

Click here to read more about System x.

The z9 Business Class will be IBM’s low-end mainframe model, which currently is the z890, Porell said. The z9 Enterprise Class targets the high end, where the z990 now plays.

Both systems will be the first to offer IBM’s new System z9 Integrated information Processor, or zIIP, a specialty engine designed to run database workloads, freeing up the general-purpose processors to handle other workloads, such as business intelligence and enterprise resource planning, Porell said.

IBM has created a number of such specialty engines. In 2001, IBM released the Integrated Facility for Linux chip, dedicated to Linux workloads. Three years later, IBM announced the zSeries Application Assist Processor, which helped bring Java applications into the mainframe.

The zIIP, first unveiled in January, will help businesses consolidate databases from different platforms.

The z9 Business Class mainframe, due May 26, also addresses such issues as the growing use of SOA (service-oriented architecture) transactions and cooling and power consumption in the data center, IBM officials said. By consolidating multiple x86 and Unix servers onto a single mainframe, businesses can save on power, cooling and data center real estate costs, they said.

IBM has been pushing to make the mainframes more accessible to potential customers, improving its Linux capabilities and lowering the costs. Such moves enable IBM to market the machines in emerging markets—where Linux is popular—and encourage businesses to integrate mainframes into their overall data center environment.

Ziff Davis Media eSeminars invite: Join us April 28 at 2 p.m. and discover how small and midsized companies can enjoy the same advantages—security, reliability, scalability—that larger enterprises enjoy by deploying Linux technology.

“We know the mainframe is never going to stand by itself [in many data centers],” Porell said. “So we’ve got to have a seamless integration [with other platforms], and Linux can help.”

IBM has seen renewed interest in its mainframe business in recent years. In the first quarter of 2006, revenues in the mainframe business declined 6 percent over the previous first quarter, but the total delivery of MIPS grew by 22 percent, the company announced April 18.

Check out’s for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.