IBM unveils software for mainframes

Taking aim at its mainframe customers, IBM . has unfurled an enhanced version of its flagship e-commerce WebSphere software that would let the Big Iron more efficiently handle complex e-business transactions.

Announced last week, WebSphere Application Server 4.0 features support for Java2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE), which lets users uniformly build Java business applications. With the J2EE feature, users would be able to link new e-business applications that can tap legacy information from CICS transaction applications or IBM's DB2 database.

WebSphere has also been enhanced to run on IBM's new z/OS 64-bit operating system for the mainframe. The software supports existing OS/390 users.

In addition, IBM added J2EE support to its CICS Transaction Server Version 2.1 so users can more easily bring legacy data from CICS transactions into Web-based applications.

IBM hopes to keep mainframe users in the fold by letting them employ the big box as an application server for Web sites by allowing them to more easily build new applications that can be integrated with OS/390's extensive inventory of applications. The idea is to keep users from moving to large Sun or Unix servers.

In some cases, mainframes have been turned aside in favor of sleeker, less expensive and flexible Unix and Windows NT servers, says Dale Vecchio, an analyst at Gartner. "[But] there's so much technology in [a business' systems] installed base that [IT staffers] are bringing mainframes back in the conversation as a viable alternative for server consolidation," Vecchio says.

Pricing for WebSphere 4.0, which will be available March 30, is US$35,000.

IBM: www.ibm.com/web sphere

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