IBM Corp. plans to sell a lower-cost version of its z9 mainframe computer aimed at midsize businesses and emerging markets such as China, the company announced Thursday.

The System z9 Business Class mainframe will be priced from about US$100,000, IBM said.

A shipping date wasn’t immediately available. IBM’s existing mainframes, aimed at big corporations and government users, are priced from around $250,000 up to several million dollars.

The company has also opened a lab in Shanghai which will develop software for its System z mainframes, it said.

The new system is designed to extend the reach of IBM’s mainframes into new markets. Businesses need more powerful computers to handle growing volumes of data and process transactions in SOAs (service oriented architectures), according to IBM.

The new system will compete with Unix servers and with powerful clusters built by tying together standard, x86-based servers. IBM argued that its pint-sized mainframe will offer better utilization rates, as well as better security and reliability.

The mainframe will run on a new chip called the System z9 Integrated Information Processor (zIIP), which was designed to consolidate workloads on the mainframe, IBM said.

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