New IBM OS shifts license paradigm

IBM's rollout of its z/OS mainframe software 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 last week.

The company introduced z/OS last year 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 second half of the year.

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.

Gartner analyst Ed Cowger said Z/OS should help address the software pricing issue mainframe users have complained about in the past. But a lot depends on the support that software vendors such as Computer Associates and BMC lend to the new pricing models.

"Such vendors have traditionally dragged their feet when implementing new pricing models; right now, the jury is out on whether they will support it," Cowger said.

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