IT Management

It’s “business as usual” for the mainframe this month— business class, that is. The z10 Business Class, IBM’s latest offering for the small to mid-size mainframe user, starts at less than $100,000, with an impressive 130 different capacity settings and top-end performance of around 2,500 MIPS from its 10-processor architecture (five general purpose engines and up to five specialty slots). As expected, the marketing rhetoric for the new system highlights the consolidation of distributed applications and energy saving—one specialty processor supports up to 7,500 Domino users, and 1,000 email users can be added for the same energy consumption as a 100-watt light bulb.

Numbers of this kind are intended to appeal not just to the z/OS-initiated but also to those with less enthusiasm for the mainframe platform. IT users of all sizes are desperately looking for ways to save money and reduce power requirements while delivering uninterrupted service to their customers, and the z10 addresses these problems better than most of its competitors.

Bear in mind that the z10 BC is an essential source of revenue for IBM. Times are getting hard for IT vendors, and the no-interest, 90-day payment deferral offer available through IBM Global Financing is an indicator of IBM’s determination to ship as many of the new boxes as possible over the next three months. However, as Barry Graham explains in this month’s Mainframe Market Bulletin, IBM wants to control the BC’s impact on more profitable EC sales and has employed a number of limiting features in the new system (such as a slower quad core chip) to maintain clear differentiation between the ranges. For those lucky enough to have the cash available, this is a good time to be buying hardware, but make sure you know exactly how much performance you’re acquiring.

COBOL Keeps Going Strong

Most people would agree that COBOL will remain an attractive skill for employers for some time to come, but it’s always good to see evidence to support this view. A recent article from IDG’s Tom Sullivan in the online version of The New York Times pointed to research from Deloitte that COBOL-related salaries have been rising because demand is outstripping supply. The article stresses that those looking for COBOL assignments need to be flexible, as many projects are arranged on a short-term basis. But the work is certainly there, and much of it focuses on strategic new applications (including integration with other enterprise platforms), not just support of legacy systems. COBOL specialists also are apparently less susceptible to the threat of outsourcing, as offshore centers display less expertise in legacy languages than in newer programming disciplines, while many colleges in the U.S. are now stepping up their investment in COBOL courses. Of course, part of the reason for the dwindling supply is that many COBOL professionals are retiring, but it’s reassuring to know, particularly in this time of economic uncertainty, that COBOL work is available for those who seek it, and that companies are still investing in an excellent mature development platform.

OpenSolaris on the z10

It has been three years since Sun made available the source code for OpenSolaris and about a year since Sine Nomine Associates (SNA), with the support of IBM and Sun, demonstrated OpenSolaris running on z at the Gartner Data Center Conference. Now the partners have provided a free download of the mainframe version of the code, encouraging the open source development community to help them iron out the wrinkles. As with Linux, the software prototype draws on the mature hypervisor features of z/VM, which will support numerous virtual images.

The potential of OpenSolaris is considerable, particularly in the financial services sector where there’s still a strong requirement to integrate z/OS and Solaris resources. With the help of the open source community, SNA and its two supporting vendors look set to open up a new market sector for the z10, as a consolidation platform for a broad range of legacy Solaris applications.