IBM has an update to its high-end z990 mainframe that will improve reliability, security and increase performance by as much as 40 percent. An official announcement tomorrow.

IBM is expected to focus on its larger on-demand and virtualization strategy, where the mainframe will play a key role. The z990 is aimed at corporate users running very large database and transactional systems.

"IBM continues to try to make the mainframe the centre of the on-demand data centre and they're going to enhance the things they think are required in that area: security and availability, plus providing more flexibility," said Gartner analyst John Phelps. "Their challenge is to be able to enhance it such that it can draw in other platforms and work with them."

Analysts also expect the new machines to be bigger and faster. The system will be built on engines running at 600 MIPS, analysts say. The z990 has engines running at about 450 MIPS.

In addition, while the new system isn't expected to have more processors, end users will be able to allocate more of them to workloads so that the system can scale up to a 38-way machine. The z990 scales to a 32-way configuration because a portion of the processors is allocated strictly for spares or system-assist functions.

IBM also is expected to put the first touches to its new network-attached storage (NAS) strategy, which it started in April when it signed a deal with Network Appliance to resell and rebrand NetApp file servers.

The company is expected to announce the new IBM TotalStorage N3700 NAS system. The N3700 is a rebranded Network Appliance FAS270 Series file server - a mid-range system with up to 8TB of capacity and Fibre Channel capability for connection to storage-area networks as well as Gigabit Ethernet LANs. The system is expected to be available in August. Pricing has not been determined, sources say.