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IBM To App Makers: Use Our Mainframe!

IBM’s legacy mainframe business is making a big push into the mobile app world. Executives at the company announced a new system, System z13, that’s designed to make the centralized servers–rather than trendy cloud systems–indispensable for enterprise app developers looking to handle e-commerce functions. Mike Gilfix, a director at IBM’s enterprise mobile division, told Fast Company that the new server is intended for sectors like finance, where larger companies need to handle high numbers of secure transactions simultaneously.

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The launch of System z13 is also indicative of a larger push by IBM into the world of apps, and of the company’s strategy for surviving the migration from desktop computers to mobile devices. While IBM’s semiconductor business has been struggling (leading to the company’s leaving the field entirely in 2014), mainframes have been a reliable moneymaker. Due to the high cost of replacement and the typically large bureaucracies of its corporate and institutional customers, IBM’s mainframe buyers are typically locked into the company’s ecosystem for years at a time.


But as enterprise customers switch to handling more work and customers on mobile devices, IBM has struggled to adjust to the space. A partnership between Apple and IBM, announced in late 2014, hasn’t just resulted in a variety of smartphone apps for business customers. It also indicated that IBM was willing to change its corporate culture in order to adjust to the mobile economy, and that serving large corporations with their mobile IT needs would become an even bigger priority for the company in the future.

The z13 system, which Gilfix stressed was built using input from 60 clients, is designed to handle what IBM describes as “100 Cyber Mondays’ worth” of e-commerce transactions for customers daily. Real-time encryption, analytics, and a full auditing trail are baked into the system for clients.

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