Linux Consolidation Helps System z Forge Inroads in New Markets

Illustration by Peter Crowther

Based on the data, it’s hard to argue the IBM zEnterprise* EC12 (zEC12) didn’t make a big splash. In the wake of last year’s zEC12 announcement, the vaunted mainframe closed 2012 on a high note. During Q4, mainframe revenues were up 56 percent from the 2011 fiscal year, while the number of shipped MIPS grew 66 percent—the highest amount ever.

Notably, it wasn’t only longstanding mainframe clients upgrading to the latest version of System z*, but also more than 70 new installations were reported. Of those, more than half were first-in-enterprise mainframe installations. This increase was reflected in the top 30 growth markets—including Brazil, China, India and Russia—where mainframes are traditionally less common. System z revenue was up 65 percent in those growth markets, compared to an increase of 50 percent in more established markets, including North America, Japan and Western Europe.

Not bad for the mainframe, which some critics contend relies too heavily on a loyal but shrinking, old-guard customer base. So who are the recent converts to mainframe, and what’s motivating them to take a closer look at System z? Two recent examples from Brazil illustrate who makes up the new guard and their motivations. In particular, the examples show that many companies are consolidating their IT infrastructures and taking advantage of z/VM* to run Linux* on System z. Today, more than 3,000 applications worldwide run on Linux on System z. And the results are striking.

Sicoob Banks on System z

Brazil’s largest cooperative financial institution, Sicoob offers banking and credit services to more than 2.5 million people. In recent years, as Brazil has grown into a global economic player, Sicoob has sought to keep pace and become the primary provider of financial services to its members.

“Our challenge has been to create an institution that is more adaptable to the national growth scenario but with stronger social appeal, unlike a traditional bank,” says Marcos Vinicius, the organization’s head of technology infrastructure.

Ricardo Antonio, CIO at Sicoob, explains: “Our aim is to be the primary financial institution for our members. Increasingly, this will mean offering a complex set of products and services through self-service mobile channels, available 24-7. Our members need to feel that they can ‘take their bank with them’ wherever they go.”

In the past, however, meeting that challenge was difficult in terms of Sicoob’s IT infrastructure, which had limited processing power, Vinicius says. Before consolidating onto the organization’s first mainframe platform, that infrastructure was built on a multitude of servers that couldn’t keep pace with the cooperative’s growing needs.

“The challenge was to maintain a growth model for the servers, adding new servers one by one, which turned out to be unsustainable financially,” Vinicius says. “In addition, the infrastructure’s administration became rather complex with so many servers, many more technicians to manage them and the financial cost of acquisition and maintenance. So we began analyzing processing alternatives.”

Mike Westholder is managing editor of IBM Systems Magazine, Mainframe edition.

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