IT Management

Tired of hearing that mainframes are old technology? Looking for proof that mainframes are on the cutting edge and can do things no other systems architecture can? Take a trip with me to Florianopolis, Brazil, the home of Hoplon Infotainment, creators of the massive, multi-player game TaikoDom, which runs on the world’s first IBM gameframe.

From a hardware perspective, Hoplon Infotainment is running a combined cell processor/mainframe environment that executes a modern, realistic virtual world game environment in real-time. From a software perspective, the company runs traditional mainframe transaction code, as well as modern Java code (which operates inside a Linux operating environment that executes extremely efficiently on the mainframe). Further, this environment uses a variety of open source code, including the Eclipse environment. In short, for naysayers who think mainframes are old technology, think again.

The Trip to Florianopolis

Last year, my 14-year-old gamer son (Billy) and I had the opportunity to visit Tarquinio Teles, CEO of Hoplon Infotainment, to examine firsthand Hoplon’s TaikoDom multiplayer game and Hoplon’s cell processor/ mainframe development environment. What we found was an amazing, graphically rich virtual world where the physics of virtual world graphics (graphics-intensive actions such as collisions) are processed on front-end, cell processor-based blade architecture and where transactionintensive interactions (such as buying and selling or anything involving give and take between players) occur on an IBM mainframe back-end. These two architectures work in tandem to comprise what the press and marketers have dubbed an “IBM gameframe.” An eight-minute, home movie-style video summary of our visit and whiteboard discussion with Teles is accessible on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0e5NxKZaBA&feature=related.

As Billy played TaikoDom, we observed first-class, virtual world graphics of Xbox 360/PlayStation quality running in real-time on a Windows PC. Using a joystick, Billy moved through virtual worlds with ease— docking at space stations, fighting off invaders, and touring the galaxy as if he was an experienced pilot in this soon-to-be-released virtual world environment. The game was seamless as Billy moved from one environment to the next; and the graphics were literally out of this world.

In a room that adjoined the development lab, Teles took to the whiteboard to articulate the infrastructure and system architecture that Hoplon uses to run TaikoDom. The infrastructure, known as “bitverse,” is a homegrown, homogenous virtual world environment. It uses open source Eclipse and IBM’s DB2 database to handle virtual world transactions and player interactions. What this shows is that IBM’s mainframe is a modern, leading-edge server environment that uses open source Linux and Eclipse and the popular Java development environment to deliver modern applications. Mainframes don’t just run COBOL anymore.

Hoplon was using an Internet Service Provider (ISP) based on the Brazilian mainland to process multiplayer gameplay, but recently decided to buy and deploy an IBM z10 mainframe onsite in Florianopolis.

According to Teles, the primary reason was “to exercise greater control over our TaikoDom environment.”

“As we ramp-up our user base, we want to be able to serve tens to hundreds of thousands of users, and we didn’t want our ISP partner to make our mainframe resourcing decisions for us,” says Teles.

When asked to describe the gameframe architecture, Teles says it’s quite simple and obvious.

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