With Microsoft now involved in cloud computing, via Office Web Apps and Facebook integration, and Google working with VMware to develop a new operating system for the cloud, you may wonder where the mainframe fits into this exciting new world. You might also be curious about the role of IBM’s venerable Information Management System (IMS). Well, that’s what we’re going to explore.
According to Wikipedia, “Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like the electricity grid.” Wikipedia further suggests that: “Cloud computing describes a new supplement, consumption, and delivery model for IT services based on the Internet, and it typically involves the provision of dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources as a service over the Internet.”
So, you can look at cloud computing as a way of delivering hosted services over the Internet. The accompanying sidebar, “Cloud Computing Origins and Evolution,” offers further insight on the types of cloud computing that have emerged, but again, our focus is on how IBM and IMS support the concept.
Big Blue and the Cloud
IBM has embraced cloud computing. The company’s Website indicates that providers of cloud services, whether private (intra-enterprise) or public, strive to:
- Enable economies of scale supporting large volumes of users at increasingly lower costs
- Create an affordable and available supply of virtualized assets
- Maintain a “green footprint” in the face of energy regulations and constraints
- Meet Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in spite of increased automation
- Secure the cloud, protecting user privacy and integrity within shared system services.
IBM assures us that the mainframe “is a trusted repository for highly secure information and an open platform supporting anything from Web 2.0 agile development environments with REST-ful interfaces to enterprise class middleware.” (REST stands for Representational State Transfer.) We’re all familiar with the mainframe’s resilience and ability to meet customer SLAs.
In terms of scalability, a sysplex allows multiple processors to be joined into a single unit to become a single logical system running on one or more physical systems. IBM mainframes also use a scalable clustering technology called Parallel Sysplex that provides a hugely horizontally scalable architecture, allowing multiple systems to execute jobs in parallel. There’s also Geographically Dispersed Parallel Sysplex (GDPS), which takes the same concept and makes it work across sites that can be some distance apart.
What makes mainframes so much better than Windows-based platforms is their security. It’s taken for granted, but it’s important because any data in one partition can’t be read by anything running in a different partition. System z even has an encryption co-processor—Crypto Express2—as well as system-level facilities for encrypting data sets. Mainframes also have security software with features that support digital certificates and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) services, which makes them well-suited for cloud computing.
IBM has developed the world’s largest private smart analytics cloud computing platform, code named Blue Insight, which combines the resources of more than 100 separate systems to create one large, centralized repository of business analytics. According to IBM, “cloud computing represents a paradigm shift in the consumption and delivery of IT services.” Blue Insight has helped IBM eliminate multiple Business Intelligence (BI) systems that were performing more or less the same Extract-Transform-Load (ETL) processes for different user groups.
Also, IBM has announced a program designed to help educators and students pursue cloud computing initiatives and better utilize collaboration technology. They call it the IBM Cloud Academy. IBM provides the cloud-based infrastructure for the program, with some simple collaboration tools.