Jan 1 ’07

z/Vendor Watch: Wooing the Skeptical User

by Editor in z/Journal

There’s been plenty of coverage of IBM’s recent financial results in the industry press, and some of it has focused on the healthy growth of mainframe MIPS. Of course, we all know that MIPS growth tends to ebb and flow with the delivery of each new generation of technology, and the z9 and subsequent BC roll-outs have given large systems users some very good reasons for investing in new mainframe capacity over the past year.

But as I suggested in the last issue, the real battle for IBM is to gain new mainframe sites, and to prove the scalability, manageability and cost of ownership benefits of the System z to a largely skeptical user base. Those without a mainframe background are particularly hard to convince, and the best way to get the message across is to offer practical examples of companies in various industry sectors that have found good reasons to move to the mainframe from other platforms. Only when users see their competitors or business partners gaining real technical advantage from the mainframe will they be encouraged to follow suit.

Last time, I mentioned financial services company Nexxar, which opted for the System z as a consolidation engine for applications drawn from a number of acquired companies. Some of IBM’s latest “new business” case studies might raise a few more eyebrows, however. Take Hoplon Infotainment in Brazil, for example, which is using a very flexible (IBM-managed) System z configuration to power its online gaming activities, having abandoned earlier plans to dedicate individual servers to each game. Or there’s the State Lottery in Brazil (again), which is now using five z9s (a total of 55,000 MIPS) to run its business, handling a thousand transactions per second with sub-second response times. These are new service-oriented businesses in new sectors, far removed from the finance-heavy core of IBM’s existing customer base. It would be good to see more new mainframe customer stories outside the comfort zone of banking and insurance, particularly at the sub-1,000 MIPS level where competition is more intense. Nevertheless, the diversity of the case studies that are currently emerging is certainly heartening.

As with the chicken and the egg, I’m not sure whether user enthusiasm comes before or after that of new ISVs, but according to IBM’s figures, there’s good news here. IBM cites 1,142 apps enabled by 544 ISVs on System z in 2006 (including 55 new Linux on System z ISVs) and the list is growing. Vendors with the right applications and tools in the Linux space can clearly expect potentially large benefits from joining the Linux on System z community for relatively little investment in time and effort.

The oracle Partnership

The news that Oracle and IBM have joined forces to market a range of business solutions based on Oracle Applications running on Linux on System z isn’t much of a surprise. From what I understand, this is a pragmatic initiative driven by mutual customers who are keen to consolidate their Oracle workloads. It also serves as a reminder that these two industry giants are no strangers. The Oracle database has been running on the S/390 architecture for many years, and there’s a small but flourishing community of mainframe Oracle DBAs who keep in contact through the International zSeries Oracle SIG.

Vendor Watch