The money will go toward testing and enhancing SAP applications for the mainframe, which Big Blue calls System z. Part of it will also go toward five technology centers in the U.S and Germany, staffed with more than 150 engineers ready to help users get accustomed to mainframe computers and using SAP software.
IBM and SAP have been business partners for more than 30 years -- with SAP applications being available on the mainframe for those who want it. But this recent announcement by IBM signals its effort to promote the mainframe by emphasizing and investing in its partnership with one of the world's largest software companies.
There were no new technology announcements made; it was strictly about support. Jim Stallings, IBM System z general manager, did say during a conference call yesterday that customers could get up to $250,000 in cash or incentives from buying a mainframe and running SAP and IBM's DB2 database system, or adopting the SAP DB2 on their current mainframe.
"This wasn't a huge, brand new product offering," said Rich Partridge, senior analyst of enterprise server research at Ideas International. "What it was, was a recommitment from IBM that it was making the investment to make sure SAP was a prime application that would be used on its mainframe systems."
One of the reasons why IBM is pushing its mainframe platform is because of two announcements made earlier this year. First, the rolling out of a smaller mainframe, the z9 Business Class, which was meant to attract customers who either couldn't afford or weren't familiar with that computing environment. The other was the introduction of the System z Integrated Information Processor -- zIIP for short -- which is a data processor meant to help the mainframe conduct high-speed database applications.
Partridge said the zIIP engine gives customers the option of performing high-volume database transactions, something the mainframe is good at, at a more reasonable cost than was previously possible.
Stallings said that both the smaller mainframe and the zIIP have drawn new customers unfamiliar with the platform, who now need support from IBM.
"They're interested in (the mainframe's) value, they're interested in its value running SAP, and they're also interested in DB2," he said, adding later that "we've got to make skills available for these customers."
Partridge added that this was also good news for SAP because the more computing platforms the software company can expand on, the better.
"This is an endorsement that SAP is a key business environment," he said. "Those who do like mainframes will now have IBM to work with SAP to help deploy ever-growing configurations. There's really no downside for SAP."