For the first time in 300 years, the Royal Mint, which produces currency here in the U.K., has made a serious mistake in the design of a new coin. A quantity of 20- pence pieces (face value: about 33 cents U.S.) were struck before someone noticed the date was missing, and British coins always display a date. In days gone by, the poor designer might have ended up in the Tower of London. Happily, this particular error has had a more positive effect, with coin collectors scurrying to track down the rogue coins—or “mules”—whose rarity is set to send their value rocketing.
So far, I haven’t come across any undated 20-pence coins, but plenty of them are being traded. At the time of this writing, eBay listings with less than an hour left are showing bids of almost $200; the “Buy It Now” option is offering coins (somewhat optimistically) for more than $2,000!
Without launching into a numismatic debate over coin condition, it isn’t difficult to see a parallel between the strange phenomenon of the undated 20-pence and the beleaguered mainframe user shopping for MIPS. Despite its potential cost-effectiveness and technical strengths, the System z is still a platform shrouded in mystery, and the price per MIPS—particularly for more traditional applications— depends on numerous factors, including the users’ rate of growth, the type of license agreement they’re signing, the mix of new and old workloads, and a range of other contributory issues. As with the undated 20p coins on eBay, the purchasers are left wondering just what the real market price is and how good a deal they can secure for themselves.
For larger users with negotiating experience and an in-depth understanding of how to structure their hardware and software agreements around realistic growth plans, this might not be a problem—although even at the top-end of the scale prices can vary enormously. Where wide price variations really hit home is among smaller, slow-growing mainframe users, where the perception remains (understandably) that the mainframe is an expensive platform. In recessionary times such as today, consolidation of distributed applications onto the mainframe can actually provide mid-size businesses with substantial savings, not just in terms of capacity and software but in the areas where costs continue to rise, such as power and support. But in many cases, IT managers are struggling against a belief among senior management that the mainframe is overpriced and should be the first target for cuts.
How the System z emerges from the worldwide downturn will depend on several factors, but education will play a major part. Companies of all sizes need to understand the economy of scale issues that really play to the mainframe’s strengths (and the corresponding cost penalty of reducing MIPS growth by migrating selected applications to other platforms). They need to explore new opportunities for exploiting low-cost capacity on specialty engines such as the zIIP and zAAP, to reduce the number of legacy ISV relationships they maintain, and focus more clearly on enterprisewide software asset management to highlight duplicated and redundant resources.
Thinking Outside the Box
Clearly, mainframe software vendors and resellers are beginning to step forward to address some of these issues. For example, CA, with the various elements of its Mainframe 2.0 initiative, is addressing not just the simplification of System z management across the board but is actively engaging with CIOs at smaller installations to help them modernize and re-evaluate their enterprise systems.
NEON Enterprise Software, with its new zPrime product, is literally thinking outside the box—or rather, thinking about how to get your workload out of the expensive CP box and into low-cost zIIPs and zAAPs. NEON claims its new tool will help users save up to 20 percent of their annual hardware and software budget by moving some 50 percent of IMS, CICS, TSO/ISPF, and DB2 workloads out to the specialty processors. The figures may seem a little ambitious, but the strategy is right on the mark.
Around the Vendors
• Software Diversified Services announced Version 7.1 of its Vital Signs IP Monitor for z/OS networks, a release designed to reduce network and CPU overhead to a minimum. They recently announced Version 7.0 extended configuration and performance monitoring to SNA-HPR-Enterprise Extender networks and TCP/IP Sysplex Distributors.
• Java application specialist Phurnace Software has seen the potential for System z running at the heart of cloud computing and has announced that its key Deliver product will now support WebSphere Application Server for z/OS.
• Advanced Systems Concepts has extended its ActiveBatch Job Scheduling and Workload Automation System beyond z/OS, UNIX, Linux, and Windows to support a range of platforms, including HP NonStop Kernel and IBM i5/OS.