Sep 30 ’08

z/Vendor Watch: The Familiar Face in the Mirror

by Editor in z/Journal

Recently, I noticed a young colleague engrossed in one of my z/Journal columns. Naturally a little flattered by her interest in my writing, I asked her if she had any questions. “Only one,” she answered with a cheeky smile, “How many years ago was that photograph taken?”

I confess I was a little taken aback. I stared at the small picture at the top of the column. “Well, it wasn’t that long ago,” I responded. I studied the background in an attempt to date the image. “It would be, well, er, now let me see …” Gradually, it dawned on me that the photo was at least 10 years old, a fact that was no doubt as clear as day to the questioner. She was now peering closely at me, observing the tell-tale wrinkles, the gray hair around the temples, and other signs that youth was finally giving way to distinction. I sighed and assured her I would find a more recent photo for the magazine (next issue, I promise!).

Funny thing, though. When you look at the same face in the mirror day after day, you just don’t notice those subtle changes. It’s only when you stand back and compare the old image with the new that you realize how much has changed in the intervening decade.

I guess it’s much the same with the mainframe. The z10 EC is quite different from its predecessors of 10 or 15 years ago. As a platform for new, Java-based applications, a focus for consolidation for distributed Linux resources, and— arguably the most important benefit of all now—the champion of “green” IT owing to its highly efficient use of power resources, the System z is a real 21st century platform. But because each successive generation of hardware has offered such a smooth upgrade path from the previous one, maybe we just haven’t noticed that impressive metamorphosis taking place. OK, there are still a few wrinkles—let’s not get too excited about legacy integration or software pricing just yet—but the z10 really is a modern platform, and is finally gaining recognition among influential players. Companies such as SAP, Oracle, and Sun Microsystems recognize that the mainframe’s unique architecture is open to a growing range of companies seeking flexible scalability beyond their current systems.

If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them!

I was pleased to see the recent announcement that IBM is acquiring Platform Solutions Inc., the Sunnyvale, CA, firm that has developed highly innovative, multi-operating system solutions for smaller mainframe users. The lawsuits and countersuits flying between the two companies in recent months addressed some important principles, but the net result was that one of the most exciting offerings available in the entry-level market was obstructed by legal wrangling. Hopefully, the takeover announcement means IBM will be heavily investing in the PSI technology and building it into the lower end of the System z product range—all good news for both companies and for customer choice. Not such good news for the lawyers, though, as both players are now dropping their respective claims!

Around the Vendors

Mainframe software stalwart Software AG has had a busy month with various initiatives. Following a joint research project into “green” Service-Oriented Architectures with the German Hasso Plattner Institute, the two partners have developed a number of policies for the CentraSite SOA lifecycle management product, which will allow administrators to predict and manage the amount of compute power and energy needed for each service within an SOA environment. Meanwhile, SAG has announced an SQL Gateway for its Natural programming language to allow easier access to SQL databases on distributed platforms, including Oracle, DB2, Sybase, and SQL Server. For its popular legacy database system Adabas, SAG has introduced an Event Replicator to provide real-time replication of Adabas data across databases running on open systems.

CA announced Version 11.6 of OPS/MVS Event Management and Automation. This release includes a Switch Operations Facility, which allows systems administrators to visualize, monitor, and manage highly complex ESCON and FICON environments.

BMC Software released a new version of Performance Assurance for Mainframes. The product is aimed at helping users more effectively manage their software usage and costs (a subject that provides almost limitless scope for improvement in many companies), and now includes virtualization features to allow planners to model Linux workloads on the mainframe.