IT Management

I still cherish a mouse mat bearing one of my favorite Rich Tennant cartoons from the early ’90s. The caption reads “Bud and Eliot Grundt develop the first mainframe mouse,” and the picture shows one hapless brother driving a bike-sized mouse around the data center floor while his sibling tries to plot his progress on a green screen. Fifteen years ago, there was no shortage of jokes and jibes about the mainframe’s sad attempts to participate in the brave new world of GUIs, WYSIWYG, and Windows.

Even those of us who remained loyal to Big Iron during those dark ages, and took every opportunity to argue passionately about its versatility and cost-effectiveness, harbored some nagging doubts the platform would ever support the killer apps and new technologies that were appearing on distributed systems. In recent months, though, it has become clear just how well-suited the System z is to new workloads. A swathe of announcements for DB2 and the groundbreaking zIIP; the news of IBM’s heavy investment in mainframe SAP; the re-positioning of the z9 as the core platform for new developments in Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA): Piece by piece these items serve to underline the mainframe’s role in today’s Webcentric data center environment.

This new role creates numerous opportunities for new vendors in the mainframe space, and also encourages existing ISVs to stand up and be counted by extending their existing technologies into new application areas.

Of course, having the ability to run new apps in a scalable and secure environment is fine, and will please the existing mainframe users who have no real desire to run their mission-critical workloads on anything other than a mainframe. But the ability to support SOA technologies doesn’t necessarily mean new business from new customers in companies that neither understand the mainframe philosophy nor have the required skills in place. How do you sell a System z to a board of directors who thinks the mainframe went out with the Ark?

Well, one person who has done just that is Wim de Ridder, CIO of Nexxar, interviewed by analyst James Governor on his site. Nexxar, a financial services company formed through a series of mergers and acquisitions, needed to create a consolidated IT environment made up of the disparate elements used by each of the acquired companies. The CIO decided he needed to create a set of highly scalable and secure shared assets based on WebSphere and J2EE, which would offer the required portability and leave scope for future growth. The hardware platform was undecided and de Ridder considered various Intel and RISC-based options. Despite having no mainframe background or experience, he was impressed by the overall cost of ownership of the z9 BC (for which he was invited into the early access program) and—with IBM’s help—he set out to sell the solution to his board. How he put the case forward—aligning the concept of shared assets with the mainframe’s unique capabilities, demonstrating the System z’s superior total cost of ownership, explaining how well the large system supported On Demand computing, and showing how its secure environment offered additional benefits for financial services companies—is well worth a read. It also shows how concerns over the mainframe’s legacy status and need for specialist skills need not be an issue for newcomers to the platform.

Around the Vendors

Cole Software has announced availability of a new “lite” client/server version of its z/XDC debugging tool, aimed specifically at source-level debugging of mainframe C programs. The new version incorporates a PC GUI and a mainframe-based server component, and includes most of the function of the heavyweight product, including debug of APF -authorized programs.

NetManage has introduced OnWeb for CICS, its tool for transforming CICS data into XML for integration purposes. The software runs natively on the mainframe, offering a powerful capability for enterprises looking to open up CICS-based resources for use by partners and customers.

Dignus has achieved what it describes as “major architectural enhancements” with Release 1.85 of its Systems/C and Systems/C++ compilers, with customers reporting a 20 percent or greater improvement in run-time performance. The XPLink implementation enables performance improvements for call-intensive C and C++ applications typical of the newer workloads being seen on OS/390 and z/OS.

Software AG has announced enhancements to ApplinX, its legacy re-engineering tool. Version 5.1 has been upgraded to enable faster and easier creation of Web-based applications and Web services based on legacy applications on the mainframe and iSeries platforms, automatically generating Web components and Web services based upon XML, SOAP, and WSDL standards. Z