In the next few months, we will see the arrival of “zNext,” the replacement for IBM’s current top-end z10 system (IBM is apparently offering Early Support Programs for the second quarter of this year). Exactly when the system will reach general availability still isn’t clear, but the signs are that we may see a roll-out by summer. What it will be called is also uncertain: z11 would make sense, but IBM doesn’t always favor the logic of sequential numbering!
What is certain, however, is that the new system will present both opportunities and challenges for the ISV community, representing the next step toward a more integrated enterprise platform, where mainframe, UNIX and x86 technologies will ultimately come together to share the benefits of the System z’s superior management capabilities. Users, of course, will be more interested in the price per MIPS of the new technology and its performance—predicted to be roughly 30 percent faster for traditional apps and 60 to 70 percent faster for new workloads, according to the Mainframe Market Bulletin.
Mainframe Skills: A Regional Issue?
The recent news that CA’s Mainframe Software Manager (MSM) has been particularly well-received in South Africa highlights the strong regional variations that exist in the System z environment. MSM has proved successful at helping reduce the level of technical knowledge required to install and maintain CA products, and CA (like BMC and other ISVs) has tended to highlight the impending skills shortage as a good reason for investing in toolsets that reduce an organization’s dependence on niche technical skills. Whether those skills are really in short supply is a matter of debate, and in many parts of the U.S. and Europe there are few indications the supply of technicians is being diminished through retirement, as has been widely predicted. Indeed, many of those with legacy support skills are faced with the choice of developing new areas of expertise or relocating to find jobs that match their existing knowledge. Heavy investment in higher education courses in these regions is also beginning to pay off, yielding a growing number of graduates who can combine practical skills in new technologies with an understanding of mainframe support issues.
Clearly, though, this pattern isn’t evenly reflected across the globe. In regions where the pool of System z expertise is much smaller and where there has been less buy-in from the universities, users will indeed face some significant staffing issues in the years ahead. In these areas, there will be a growing demand for products such as MSM.
NEON Increases Pressure on IBM
The battle between NEON Enterprise Software and IBM rumbles on, with NEON adding further details to its claims that IBM is threatening customers that plan to use NEON’s zPrime to run traditional workloads on specialty processors. Suits and countersuits have been exchanged by the two vendors and, whether or not IBM has made the threats that NEON suggests, Big Blue is likely to revisit those licensing terms as it moves toward the new generation of hardware. What the next move will be is unclear, but one option (based on past experience) would be for IBM to acquire NEON. Whatever happens, the legal claims make fascinating reading and the issues they raise won’t disappear overnight.
Governments Investing in Modernization
More than 72 percent of government IT practitioners surveyed by enterprise modernization specialist MicroFocus say they’re planning to build application modernization into their budgets within the next six months to two years, addressing key issues such as Web-enabling legacy systems. The timing of this research is intriguing; it comes on the heels of reports that the U.S. Secret Service has been seriously hampered by underfunding in IT, and specifically by a 30-year-old legacy mainframe system at the heart of the organization, which has been fully operational only 60 percent of the time.
Software AG Number 2 in German Software
The mainframe software market is a tough place to be these days, and many companies fail to weather the storm. This makes Software AG’s achievements all the more impressive. The 40-year-old vendor, whose Adabas database and Natural 4GL are still running in many traditional mainframe sites, is now rated by the Truffle 100 as the second largest indigenous software company in Germany behind SAP. The Truffle 100 is a leading ranking of the top-100 software vendors in Europe.