IT Management

z/Vendor Watch: Looking Back and Peering Forward

Early in the new year it’s natural to look back over the previous 12 months to identify any significant changes and trends. In the mainframe world, there have been many important technological developments, with the latest z10 announcements grabbing most of the column inches. The z10 Business Class in particular has attracted much attention and shows that IBM is now addressing the needs of the smaller z/OS users that have struggled with the entry-level costs of the mainframe environment. There have been a number of excellent case studies that demonstrate just how well the System z handles Web services, SOA, and Java-based workloads. We’ve seen various examples of businesses using the mainframe’s unparalleled data management capabilities to prepare themselves for the exacting data storage requirements of new government regulations, and companies leveraging their legacy systems to unlock valuable data and add value to the organization.

But probably the biggest issues facing mainframe-size enterprises in recent months can be summarized as “green” and “lean,” as companies attempt to make much-needed environmental improvements while dealing with the crippling economic conditions sweeping the world.

In many ways, the mainframe is more vulnerable than other platforms to the effects of the economic downturn. After all, banks, financial services companies, airlines, and large manufacturers are suffering more than most in the current crisis, and between them they account for the majority of large systems installations. On the other hand, it’s under such difficult conditions that the System z comes into its own and provides the economies of scale that companies need to weather the recession. And as enterprises closely examine their IT infrastructure to find further ways of reducing costs, the prime targets for change are the server farms and distributed resources that are ripe for consolidation onto the System z.

Of course, it’s all the more important to make sure mainframe costs are under tight control, and we’ve noticed a marked increase in the number of customers looking for guidance on IBM’s bewildering range of software pricing options. But overall, companies with mature mainframe systems in place are in a strong position to make continual savings through consolidation and modernization.

So, the turbulence and uncertainty of the last 12 months suggest that the coming year will provide both challenges and opportunities for the mainframe. Arcati’s annual user survey (just published in the Arcati Mainframe Handbook at www.arcati.com/newyearbook09) reveals that the percentage of sites whose z/OS systems participate in Web services and SOA environments increased from 48 percent in 2007 to 53 percent in 2008. The survey also found that 67 percent of sites are Web-enabling (z/OS) DB2 systems and 66 percent are Web-enabling CICS. Progress is steady but sure, although as always, we found most confidence among the mid-size and largest users, with smaller System z users less inclined to stake their future on the mainframe.

Around the Vendors

MicroFocus has always claimed to be platform-agnostic when it comes to running COBOL applications, but now the vendor has become “cloud-agnostic.” The company has recently extended its Enterprise Cloud Services initiative to enable enterprise applications to run on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, part of a broader plan to help COBOL users take advantage of Web 2.0 and Software as a Service technologies.

As part of its commitment to simplifying management of IBM mainframes in heterogeneous enterprise environments, CA released new versions of NetMaster Network Management for TCP/IP r11.6 and Sysview Performance Management r12. The new CA NetMaster release supports IPv6 and offloads a large part of its processing to System z Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) engines to reduce MIPS consumption on central processors. New features in the Sysview product include graphical performance “dashboards” that enable users to manage diverse mainframe systems and other resources from a single pointof-control, and integrated access to performance data from other CA management products.

Stonebranch, Inc. announced the launch of Universal Event Monitor for SOA, a component of its Universal Solutions Suite that simplifies workload integration by providing a standardized interface between Internet and message-based applications and existing system management tools. Universal Event Monitor for SOA eliminates vendor and product dependencies in business applications, increasing agility and reducing the risk when upgrading or replacing individual systems management tools.