Aug 9 ’10

z/Vendor Watch:  IBM Prepares the Market for Its New Mainframe Processor

by Editor in z/Journal

IBM is working hard to differentiate the functionality and capacity of the new range from the current z10 technology in an attempt to increase demand in a recessionary market. Traditionally, new mainframe processors are launched when large users are getting desperate to unleash more MIPS at the top-end of the range. This time, the proverbial fruit might not be hanging quite so low for IBM, and instead users will be urged to take advantage of extra capacity to consolidate non-z/OS workloads onto the mainframe as a way of lowering overall processing costs or reducing power consumption per unit of work.

In the meantime, users that are currently negotiating last-minute z10 contracts need to make sure the deal includes the option to upgrade cost-effectively to the new platform. Undoubtedly, the “zNext” will include some attractive features, and users need to ensure they don’t deny themselves access to the new models in the future because of over-restrictive contracts agreed to today.

What a Difference 20 Years Makes

Leafing through some archive copies of Insight IBM recently, I came across the October 1990 issue, which covered the launch of the System/390. Now that was a big event! You may recall that IBM introduced approximately 150 new products, including ESA versions of VM and VSE (to bring much needed MVS functionality to smaller users), peer-to-peer support for NetView, and an innovative connectivity architecture called ESCON. IBM also unveiled a major processor refresh in the shape of the ES/9000.

It’s hard to imagine now the level of excitement that a major hardware announcement could generate 20 years ago, but I remember well the scores of IT journalists and analysts who were briefed on the new system’s feeds and speeds. The zNext is unlikely to draw such large crowds, I suspect, but it will be equally significant in its own way and will set the agenda for mainframe computing into the next decade.

Role-Based Management From CA Technologies

Arguably the biggest announcement at this year’s CA World (apart from the name change to CA Technologies to reflect CA’s extensive heritage of managing technical solutions on different platforms—it’s good to see that techies are back in fashion!) was the company’s role-based workspace offering, Mainframe Chorus. The Chorus announcement focuses on the usual problem areas of cost reduction and the shortage of mainframe skills, but the role-based approach (for example, providing modules of information that are specifically relevant to the storage manager or database administrator) offers a somewhat different perspective of system management and one that reflects the growing business interest in skills frameworks and definitions. The first role for the workspace, CA Mainframe Chorus for DB2 Database Management, is now in beta but we’re likely to see further roles emerging fast to support CA Technologies’ new vision.

Syncsort Announces Data Integration Solution

Focused primarily on high-speed data integration, Syncsort recently announced additional professional services to enhance its DMExpress 6 tool. This will help organizations accelerate their mainframe application modernization initiatives by translating and transforming huge amounts of data between mainframe and open systems formats, a frequent obstacle for those tackling legacy modernization. In a further announcement, Syncsort and BMC Software announced an extension to their OEM agreement, through which BMC will deploy the Syncsort technology to assure that customer data needed for business-critical applications has integrity and is available to service the business.

NEON zPrime Gathers Momentum

As the legal battles between IBM and NEON Enterprise Software continue unresolved, the Texas-based software company launched a new release of its tool for offloading traditional workloads to specialty processors. With zPrime 2.1, up to 90 percent of CICS workloads can reportedly be offloaded to specialty processors, and virtually all DB2 workloads can run on System z Integrated Information Processors (zIIPs) and z Application Assist Processors (zAAPs). The new release includes features that allow system administrators to fine-tune the utilization levels of the specialty processors. NEON says it has more than 50 zPrime customers, with eight set to take version 2.1 into production. With the potential cost savings involved, this level of interest isn’t too surprising, though it seems likely that IBM will use its next generation of processors to close some of the loopholes that currently allow users to exploit zPrime.