IT Management

Maybe in 10 years, we’ll look back nostalgically to the days when we actually had to predict how much computing power we would need in the next year or two, and pay for it whether we used it or not. Perhaps by then, utility computing and Capacity on Demand (CoD) will be taken for granted.

Well, we’re not there yet, and the lack of granularity in Independent Software Vendor (ISV) software costs still keep many IT managers awake at night. However, there’s no doubt that CoD, and the tools needed to manage the concept, are popular themes with most IT suppliers at the moment. Of course, much of this is still hot air. Over-provisioning of MIPS is such a profitable business for vendors that they are reluctant to make capacity too flexible — but user pressure and competition within the market are making them push ahead with far-reaching CoD plans.

One of the features that stood out in IBM’s recent z/990 announcement was the flexibility of its new on/off CoD offerings, allowing processing and storage to be added and withdrawn as needed. IBM is particularly keen to stress that resource virtualization — sharing data and machine cycles and switching IT power dynamically to whichever application needs it most — is what the mainframe has always been about. That’s true enough — after all, if the zSeries can’t offer flexible capacity, what can? However, to make CoD really successful, third-party software vendors need to jump on the bandwagon, too.

Well, Computer Associates for one has been articulating its own CoD message recently. In response to IBM and Hewlett-Packard’s initiatives in this area, CA has unveiled a range of new tools under its Unicenter umbrella, which will map IT resources more closely to business processes, provide dynamic provisioning of servers, and handle software delivery and asset management more flexibly than in the past. CA’s CoD functionality will also be extended in time beyond its family of system and network management tools to the BrightStor storage management and eTrust security products.

During the next few months, we’ll see many of the ISVs announcing CoD additions to their products, to reflect the current enthusiasm for more flexible provisioning.

Grid Computing Introduces New Names

Another theme of the z990 announcement was the expanded role of the mainframe within the Grid environment, with a number of new features that allow the mainframe either to act as a node within a heterogeneous Grid, or to host a whole virtual Grid of Linux images.

It’s fair to say that Grid applications, characterized by scientific workloads and networks of distributed Open Source number-crunchers, have attracted relatively little attention in the mainframe world. However, as IBM extends Grid-type functions into the commercial world, and promotes the zSeries more heavily as a top-end Linux hosting solution, we’re going to be hearing more about Grid functions.

One side effect of this trend is that a number of new third-party software companies, specialists in Grid management, are porting their software to the mainframe. Watch for companies such as DataSynapse, with LiveCluster, and Platform Computing, with JobScheduler and MultiCluster, whose expertise in Linux workload management and job scheduling will make them increasingly important as the resource sharing relationship between Linux, z/OS, and z/ VM on the z/Series begins to mature.

In Brief

Meanwhile, Candle has been expanding its security offerings for WebSphere MQ. PathWAI Secure for WebSphere MQ complements existing RACF, ACF2, and Top Secret functions, adding Public Key Encryption- (PKI-) based authentication capabilities to verify the identity of MQ message senders and recipients.

Software AG announced XML support in Version 4 of the Natural 4GL mainframe development platform. Support for XML in Natural 4 gives developers the much-needed capability to extend mainframe applications to the Internet and expose them to Web services.

Tivoli has been busy with a number of new and upgraded products, including Tivoli Storage Manager, S/390 Edition 5.2, which offers snapshot backups and LAN-free client support for z/OS; and Version 1.6.0 of Tivoli Decision Support for OS/390, a reporting tool that correlates system performance data and presents it in a suitable format for business planning purposes.

Vendors , Take Note !

Please send me your product news and developments. If your product works on the z/Series, it belongs here! Thanks to Bob Heerdink, who responded to my “Linux enthusiasm” call last month to remind me about Sterling Commerce’s CONNECT:Direct file-based integration software for Linux on zSeries, announced early last year.