Changing times in mainframe market for IBM Australia

Direct customer base now at 50 but vendor still dominates mainframe space

Despite a reduction in direct mainframe customers from 100 in 2007 to 50 in 2011, IBM continues to have a firm grip on the local mainframe market according to IDC results for 2010.

IDC statistics for 2010 show that the mainframe market in Australia consisted of three vendors, IBM, Fujitsu and Unisys. Between 2009 and 2010, there was year on year revenue growth for mainframes of 28.3 per cent in Australia.

IBM business unit executive, Mark Binks, told Computerworld Australia that while it now has approximately 50 direct mainframe customers, many of those customers had gone through outsourcing projects.

“IBM globally is focused on increasing the number of customers who use mainframes and we are having some success in the A/NZ market space," he said. "That is around Linux consolidation type environments.”

According to Binks, there was still high demand in the local financial industry, including the big four banks, as well as federal government agencies for mainframe servers.

This was backed up by IDC Australia associate director, Matthew Oostveen, who said that, based on recent conversations, chief information officers in the financial industry were moving workloads to the mainframe.

"Chief information officers look at their environment and they see there is a mainframe so they need to make some serious choices about which technology platform they want to continue to move with," said Oostveen.

"If you already have a mainframe sitting on your data centre floor, than you are at an advantage because you’ve already made the initial investment in the infrastructure but also, the supporting staff and technology skill sets that are required to keep that mainframe going."

Oostveen said that if an enterprise had space and cooling constraints in the data centre, than an x86 server could be quite an expensive option.

"Many chief information officers are aware of this and are undertaking that migration back to the mainframe," he said.

As part of its strategy to continue growing the mainframe area, Binks said that its z114 enterprise mainframe server, which was launched in July, was aimed at helping to win new customers with features such as a 25 per cent performance improvement over its older z10 BC servers, and consolidation of workloads from x86 servers.

While the server was available in the US for $US75,000, Australian pricing was still to be determined.

However, he said the mainframe server would costs less than the previous enterprise Linux server priced at $AU385,000.

“There are many attributes to IT cost such as hosting and compute power, networking and connectivity costs. When you put all of those elements together the mainframe environment hosting Linux is far cheaper than any other platform on the face of the planet and it’s around a cost equation of why organisations should look at this," Binks said.

"If you are running anything more than 12 to 20 servers than this, as a consolidation option, should be concerned. Mid tier and small organisations could also take advantage of this," he said.

When asked why IT managers should chose a mainframe server over Cloud computing, Binks acknowledged that the Cloud was a "flexible option" for supplying capacity and that many of its competitors in the industry were engaging in Cloud projects.

"Organisations are looking for more flexible environments and that is around the application development space which is generally a very expensive environment to provide and a challenge to get the right amount of capacity at the right time for customers," he said.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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