IT Management

Did you have a peaceful summer? I hope so, but if you happen to work for the IBM mainframe business, chances are your summer was anything but relaxing. While others were lounging beside the pool, the System z team seemed determined to prove there was no time to waste on vacations.

August started with that mind-blowing consolidation project. IBM never misses an opportunity to benefit from its own technological advances, and Project Big Green offered the chance to pull together the workloads of 3900 distributed servers onto 30 Enterprise Class systems running z/Linux. To put it another way, as IBM vice president David Gelardi was recently quoted as saying, “It’s 30 refrigerator-sized things vs. 3,900 other things.” (It’s nice to know that the Age of Eloquence hasn’t passed!)

IBM claims that this consolidation of 45 percent of its installed servers (a big project by any standards) will save the company $250 million over five years. This has sent many pundits scurrying into dark corners with their calculators to work out just how easy this savings will be to achieve—though, to be honest, the cost savings will be less significant to IBM than the prestige of demonstrating the sheer power of virtualization in solving the long-term problems of managing multiple disparate servers and reducing power consumption and other environmental constraints.

The fact is, there’s great potential for businesses of all sizes to reduce their system management overhead, cut costs, and make a contribution to the environment by taking advantage of virtualization and consolidation. But it takes a company as large as IBM to demonstrate that the benefits don’t trail off once you reach 15 or 20 servers.

So what else was IBM doing during July and August? Well, according to our feedback from customers, the mainframe sales teams were busier than usual, thanks to IBM’s new strategy of setting six monthly sales targets. Users were offered some very interesting deals during the summer months, though many are clearly holding out for the z9 replacement, expected toward the end of the year.

Some IBMers were clearly chasing the sun, however, making the journey to Sao Paulo to open the first mainframe software competency center in Latin America. These centers allow local businesses to test and run new applications, and IBM tends to position them in areas of rapid growth (there’s another one in China). Brazil has provided a showcase for many genuinely new System z applications in recent months, and the new center is clearly set to encourage further development.

Finally, August saw the introduction (for September delivery) of z/OS Version 1.9, the latest operating system release. Version 1.9 majors on security, where the mainframe continues to move ahead of the pack, with the adoption of Public Key Cryptography Standard 11, enhancements to PKI services for the creation and authentication of digital certificates, and more consistent network security policy management. But there also are improvements to the command structure of Unix System Services, and of course it will now be possible to stretch a logical partition across 54 processors.

Around the vendors

Platform Solutions Inc. used the recent SHArE conference to unveil the latest addition to its Open Mainframe strategy, a series of servers based on dual-core Itanium 2 technology under the System64 label. The new engines, including the existing Liberty servers, will scale dramatically from 26 to 1,800 MIPS, and will allow the coexistence of Linux, Windows, z/OS and HP-UX workloads. PSI demonstrated how its systems will run z/ OS applications alongside the forthcoming Windows Server 2008 software with dynamic hardware partitioning.

Phoenix Software has joined the growing number of vendors that allow customers to take advantage of cost benefits derived from executing workloads on zIIP specialty processors. Version 4.5 of their (E)JES tool is designed to make “a significant portion” of execution resources eligible for offload, with a consequent impact on capacity-based software license charges.

In its quest to snap up some of the more valuable gems in the ISV market, IBM’s Information Management business has acquired Princeton Softech, a long-standing player in the mainframe business and a well-respected vendor of information archival and data-oriented IT governance products. This should prove to be a strong addition to the IBM armory. Z