IBM has ported its Cognos 8 BI software to System z mainframes running Linux

"Customers are looking beyond transactional applications, saying, 'Can I deliver more in my mainframe environment,' and BI is one of these," said Jennifer Hanniman, senior product marketing manager, Cognos 8 Platform. In addition, customers are viewing BI as mission critical, and are therefore being drawn to BI on System z due to the mainframe's aura of reliability and scalability, she added.

Also, running Cognos direct on the mainframe also eliminates the need to first push information into a data warehouse, Hanniman said.

IBM went with Linux support first because Cognos was already compatible with it, according to Hanniman. The company plans to support additional System z operating systems, but has no roadmap as of yet.

The software will cost about US$200 (£100) per user, with volume discounts available.

Analysts called IBM's move a pragmatic and expected one, given its roughly $5 billion investment in Cognos, as well as a desire to keep its mainframe business strong as the industry increasingly moves to commodity-hardware server farms and eyes cloud computing services for its infrastructure needs.

System z is "a huge cash cow" for the company said analyst Judith Hurwitz. Porting Cognos to it "puts more fodder into the message that the mainframe is a good citizen."

However, IBM isn't first to market with the concept, and it's unclear how much demand there is right now for running BI natively on the mainframe, according to Forrester Research analyst Boris Evelson.

"This is not a truly differentiating feature for BI, since Information Builders and SAS already run some portions of their BI products on mainframe," he said. "In all honesty, I have not heard a single request from our clients looking to run BI on a mainframe. Pulling data from a mainframe, yes, but most all BI vendors offer that."

"However, for a mainframe-centric shop, it's a good alternative if they feel comfortable with their mainframe environment, want to run everything on one platform, and do not want to diversify into Unix/Windows server platforms," he added.