IT Management

Small, we are often told, is beautiful. Attractive as this idea sounds, we don’t always see evidence of it in the business world. Big business interests rule, and constant mergers and acquisitions ensure the behemoths maintain their position of influence and strength.

An interesting article by Frederic Paul titled “Small is the New Large” on the bmighty.com Website makes the point that IT has historically been instrumental in maintaining a firm dividing line between large enterprises and Small-to- Medium Size Businesses (SMBs). While leading-edge systems and the army of technicians required to support them were the reserve of the bigger players, the SMBs had to be content with cut-down or outdated technologies, while individual consumers had access to only the most basic computers and slow network connections.

The point that Paul makes in his article is that new technologies are changing the rules. While the Fortune 100 companies may still have disproportionately large muscles, the Internet has now removed the restrictions that once kept small businesses in their place. He cites cloud computing, software as a service, search-based marketing, user-based content, and a host of other emerging trends that can allow start-up businesses, small companies, and inspired individuals to compete on equal terms (well, almost equal) with their larger counterparts by reaching a far broader market than would ever have been possible a decade ago. In today’s increasingly service-oriented world, small businesses have the opportunity to buy into the technology they need on demand instead of being forced to acquire the underlying systems. Of course, larger users also enjoy more freedom now to exploit networked services and to acquire their compute power in more flexible ways, but it’s the smaller businesses that benefit the most.

The mainframe environment has traditionally been geared to the requirements of big companies, mainly because the platform is at its most cost-effective when economies of scale come into play. Annual surveys in Arcati’s Mainframe Yearbook consistently show that the largest banks, retailers, and commercial organizations are the most committed users of System z technology, and it’s these heavy hitters that drive IBM’s mainframe strategy. Smaller users are far more likely to outsource or migrate, partly because they’re not getting such good deals on their mainframe hardware and software under current pricing schemes and partly because they aren’t so firmly tied to the platform by legacy applications and have more flexibility to explore other options.  

One thing that’s becoming clear is that the future of the mainframe is service-based, and MIPS growth will be in the areas of Java, Linux, WebSphere, and database-oriented apps that can be delivered through specialty processors such as the IBM System z9 or z10 Integrated Information Processor (zIIP). There are many ways to encourage new players to the platform, but only if the vendors and service providers who promote z/OS-based solutions are aware of the changing rules and the ways users—big and small— now shop for the technology they need to make their businesses succeed. There’s plenty of evidence of established vendors in the mainframe market re-inventing themselves as suppliers of service-oriented products, but they really do need to change their whole business model to make this approach work. Some are still primarily focusing on the high maintenance revenues they receive from a declining legacy product base, and they will find it increasingly hard to survive in a world favored by the new generation of Internet-powered, super-users.

Around the Vendors

Recent weeks have seen a couple of significant storage announcements for mainframe users. Bus-Tech announced a new version of its Mainframe Data Library, model 6000, which offers more than 1Gbps, 4 gigabit FICON support and more than 1,500 emulated tape transports. Meanwhile, Luminex Software has increased the speed of its virtual tape drives, offering up to 8GBps FICON. This, according to the vendor, allows mainframe users to enjoy similar speeds to those already available in the open systems environment.

Mainframe FTP management specialists SSH Communications Security and Software Diversified Services have joined forces to improve FTP security and monitoring. SDS will distribute a package of solutions, including SSH TectiaServer for IBM z/OS and SDS FTP Manager 2.0, which will mean enhanced security and encryption for users conducting batch FTP file transfers on System z.

William Data Systems introduced the ZEN family of z/OS network management tools. The ZEN products, which are based on XML and Ajax, help users integrate and operate tools through a single interface, proactively identify potential network problems, and diagnose issues with networking and application resources.