IBM Unveils Mainframes, Software for Data Sharing

In a product introduction blitz Wednesday, International Business Machines Corp. launched seven new mainframe computers and software that will help large banks share data across different vendors' computer systems.

The announcements underscore IBM's focus on making it easier to use its computers alongside information systems made by other manufacturers.

Although many banks continue to use IBM mainframes to support core banking applications such as demand deposit, credit card, and other accounting systems, many have turned to non-IBM computers to run specific department-level businesses.

Bankers need access to information on all these systems to create customer information files, provide customer service representatives with more detailed product information, and create new services for automated teller machine networks.

"Customers need to get at data no matter which system it resides on," said William O. Grabe, IBM vice president and general manager, at a briefing in New York on Wednesday.

First New Line in 10 Years

IBM introduced four water-cooled and three air-colled mainframes, filling out the Enterprise System/9000 family of computers systems introduced last September. The ES/9000 is the first new line of mainframes from IBM in 10 years.

The water-cooled systems have one, two, three, and four central processors and range in price from $4.6 million to $11.6 million. They will be available next March.

The air-cooled systems have almost twice the computing power of previous IBM mainframes and are priced from $3 million to $5.7 million. They will also be available in March.

IBM has beefed up features in the new mainframes that guarantee that the computers will continue to run or will shift processing to another system if a processor stops working. Such features, known as "fault tolerance," are especially important for computers that run ATM networks and checking account systems.

New Vaccine for System

IBM also announced new security features and services designed to help banks guard against computer viruses. One program is called Anti-Virus Service, a consulting/education service for building a corporate-wide anti-virus awareness. A software product call Secured Workstation Manager provides enhanced security for personal computers.

IBM also introduced Information Warehouse, a set of IBM and non-IBM products for accessing and managing data on a variety of hardware. IBM has formed an alliance with several makers of data base management systems who have agreed to allow their programs to work with Information Warehouse.

The company also introduced enhancements to a previously announced product that allows customers to connect mainframes at high speeds over long distances. The product, called Escon, can now connect mainframes up to 37 miles apart, up from 5.5 miles.

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