IBM ships OS to support usage-based pricing model

IBM Corp.'s rollout of its z/OS mainframe software last week provides a crucial foundation for building the kind of usage-based license models businesses have been demanding for a long time, users and analysts said.

The company introduced z/OS last fall along with its z900 line of mainframe hardware. Z/OS is IBM's first 64-bit mainframe operating system and includes new capabilities designed to make it easier and less expensive to run mainframes.

The most significant of these, from a user perspective, is z/OS's support of license manager technology for monitoring and measuring mainframe software usage. IBM is expected to ship the license manager in the fall. The company will then be able to charge users for software based on actual use, in much the same way utility companies charge their customers.

Users have long said that this kind of a model is far more equitable than current capacity-based licenses that are based on system size, where the larger a system is, the more users pay for the software, regardless of actual use.

"The license manager facility will allow users to substantially reduce the costs of running IBM and third-party [mainframe] software," said Chuck Bram, a principal consultant at eFunds, an online financial services firm and an IBM mainframe user.

Z/OS should help tremendously in addressing the software pricing issue mainframe users have complained about, said Ed Cowger, an analyst at Gartner's Datapro unit. But a lot depends on the support that software vendors such as Computer Associates in Islandia, N.Y., and BMC Software in Houston lend to the new pricing models, Cowger added. Such vendors have traditionally dragged their feet when implementing new pricing models, he said.

"Right now, the jury is out on whether they will support it on the z/OS," Cowger said.

Key among the other features available on z/OS is the Intelligent Resource Director, which makes the z900 capable of dynamically shifting processor power within the server and network to accommodate sharply fluctuating workloads. Using that capability, users can instruct the operating system to assign additional resources such as processors and memory to certain applications.

Z/OS also comes with security enhancements. For instance, for the first time, it lets users define and build their own cryptography functions.

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