IBM releases 64-bit zOS mainframe operating system

As part of its ongoing effort to "reinvent" its venerable mainframe line IBM Corp. dropped the other shoe on Monday, delivering its new age 64-bit mainframe operating system called zOS.zOS fully exploits the z900 series of mainframes -- which was the first shoe to drop last December -- including support for the Intelligent Resource Director (IRD). With IRD, a z900 can automatically manage the amount of processing power devoted to applications across the entire system, which IBM officials claim is an industry first.

"IRD gives users the ability to bring instant capacity to workloads defined as a high priority within a server complex," said Pete McCaffrey, director of IBM's zSeries Servers.

The operating system also has new security capabilities. For the first time, users can now define and build their own cryptography functions. It is also "Entrust Ready" so it works with digital certificate software. This allows corporate customers to keep critical digital certificates on a zOS LDAP-based server so electronic transactions can be processed end to end.

Since the z900 systems shipped in December, users have been able to use IBM's OS/390 operating system, but were unable to take advantage of several new capabilities, including IRD.

Because zOS is 64-bit, it offers better performance and a more simplified approach to setting up and configuring the system than the OS/390. With the OS/390, IT shops needed specialists who knew how to configure it, whereas the zOS uses Web-based wizards and an interview style for helping users define parameters for customization, company officials explained.

Another important piece of reinventing its highest end platform, IBM over the past month or two has delivered versions of its most important middleware packages that can take advantage of zOS including DB2, CICS, IMS, and Websphere.

Going hand-in-hand with the new middleware is built in support for Enterprise Java and XML, which company officials believe give users the programming building blocks to create or improve existing e-business applications for the platform.

The company is planning to release a new version of zOS in October, which will include a version of IRD for Linux, a new security feature for intrusion detection, and a networking feature that allows data to move at memory speeds across logical partitions thanks to a technology called Hyper Sockets.

Hyper Sockets is a TCP/IP connection, for instance between a Linux-based application server hosting an ERP application from SAP, and the back end zOS data base server, McCaffrey explained.

"This gives users the ability to much more seamlessly integrate their applications," he said.

Besides allowing customers to run Linux natively come this fall, zOS -- like OS/390 -- will allow corporate users to set up Linux in a partition and to manage thousands of Linux servers across an enterprise.

The move underscores again the strategic importance of Linux on mainframes for IBM, better enabling it to compete against server archrivals like Sun, Compaq, and Hewlett-Packard, company officials said.

Also later this year IBM will debut a new software pricing model, enabled by features in zOS, which is based on usage rather than the size of the user's system or CPU capacity.

"This is a model enabled by zOS where users will just pay for the software they use as opposed to paying based on the size of their server," McCaffrey said.zOS Version 1 Release 1 will be available March 30.

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