IT Management

z/Vendor Watch: Mainframe MIPS Keep Growing

IBM recently offered analysts some interesting perspectives on the size and growth of the mainframe platform. As reported in the March issue of the Mainframe Market Bulletin, IBM claimed the mainframe has seen a 20 percent compound annual growth rate in MIPS since 2003, with specialty engine capacity growing at a very impressive 93 percent. In the same presentation, IBM pointed out that the System z has increased its server market share from 17 to 33 percent since 2000, according to data from analyst firm IDC. These are quite impressive figures, and although they need to be treated with a great deal of caution, they do show that the mainframe continues to hold sway among large corporate users.

Of course, oversimplification can be dangerous. Our research has shown consistently for some years that the really solid growth has occurred among IBM’s largest and most committed customers. Lower down the scale, users are far less predictable in their growth patterns and more likely to migrate or outsource their mainframe resources. Moreover, the “new” MIPS, such as those on Linux engines and on zIIPs and zAAPs, are often part of a total package that barely reflects the position with traditional MIPS growth. Nevertheless, at a time when the mainframe’s most loyal customers are experiencing the worst economic conditions in decades, and the fourth quarter of 2008 looked particularly bleak for System z, it’s worth remembering that the bigger picture is still relatively positive.

IBM and Sun

At the time of writing, news of the possible acquisition of Sun Microsystems by IBM is bouncing around the wires, following an article in The Wall Street Journal, which quoted a price tag of more than $6.5 billion. Of course, by the time you read this, you will know the outcome. Either way, this union has been debated for some time, and if it doesn’t happen today, it’s only a matter of time, I suspect.

At first glance, IBM and Sun appear to be worlds apart, as there are strong cultural differences between the two companies, which could make a takeover bid somewhat stormy, to say the least. On the other hand, they do share several significant characteristics: a strong server presence in the lucrative but currently ailing financial services sector; a significant chunk of the enterprise storage market, particularly mass storage; a sincere belief in open source and in Java (even if the approach is very different in both cases); and a shared conviction that desktops would look a whole lot more attractive with something other than MS-Windows running on them.

Although Sun may have recently lost some focus and relied too heavily on the intangible financial rewards of open source, IBM will have its eye on the strong synergies between the two environments. Ironically, while many of the strategic attractions of the Sun product portfolio are in the desktop and server areas, there are some important issues for mainframe users. The recent initiatives to bring OpenSolaris to the mainframe, for example, show that an intriguing migration path is beginning to open up for larger Sun users, and an acquisition could make that path considerably smoother. On the other hand, taking brands such as StorageTek into the IBM fold would give Big Blue even more control over the enterprise storage environment, and this is unlikely to be to users’ advantage.

Whatever the cultural similarities or differences between the two companies, it might well be the anti-trust watchdogs that keep the two players apart. Time will tell.

Around the Vendors

CA has addressed data protection and compliance issues with the latest release of its CA Vantage SRM mainframe storage management software. SRM r12 SP2 automates major storage management operations, including critical monitoring and analysis tasks and corrective actions across the IBM z/OS environment. It helps enable continuous job processing by predicting and preventing out-of-storage conditions. The product shares a common user interface with CA’s distributed storage management environment, allowing more consistent end-to-end operations management.

Relational Architects International announced the general availability of Version 10.1 of its Smart/RESTART product, which preserves batch time by allowing failing batch applications to resume from a checkpoint. This release offers full support for z/OS V1.10 and DFSMS facilities such as extended addressing volumes.

Release 1.90 of the Systems/C and Systems/C++ compilers from mainframe software company Dignus provide significant performance enhancements through improved value-numbering algorithms and memory usage in register allocation. The new release provides additional functionality for z/TPF compile solutions and an enhanced DB2 pre-processor utility.