IBM, Cisco work to tune mainframes for e-commerce

Aiming to make the data centre more electronic-business-friendly, IBM and Cisco Systems have announced a joint initiative to test and develop e-business products that function with IBM mainframes.

Using the IBM S/390 server, IBM Host Integration software, and Cisco's networking products, the companies will make advanced e-business products that can support a high volume of Internet transactions, according to Cisco and IBM officials.

"There are common issues that everyone is dealing with regarding e-business applications -- like they are quite large and complex and, candidly, they are difficult to design, manage, and sustain," said Selby Wellman, a senior vice president at Cisco.

"If we have a singular goal between IBM and Cisco, it is to reduce that complexity so that our users can implement these e-business applications much faster and more effectively," Wellman said.

One example of that goal, according to the companies, is the deployment of IBM S/390 traffic-prioritization functions in conjunction with Cisco priority enforcement to ensure more reliable response times.

"A customer can now determine which e-commerce transaction has a higher priority [over] some casual Web browsing," said Ross Mauri, vice president of IBM's S/390 business. "Or maybe a stock-trading transaction would get priority over a stock-quote request. So an individual buying or trading a stock might get what we call 'Gold Level' service at times of peak demand.''Another example the companies gave is the coupling of S/390 Parallel Sysplex clustering technology with Cisco's intelligent workload balancing to provide high transaction availability and scalability.

One analyst pointed out that mainframes inherently possess key features needed in Internet servers.

"The attributes that made mainframes attractive for corporations when they were being used for terminal access are exactly the things that make the mainframes valuable in an Internet e-commerce application -- things like high reliability, scalability of simultaneous users, memory, and stability of software and hardware," said Chris Nicoll, director at Current Analysis.

Testing for interoperability already has begun, and jointly developed products are on the drawing board.

"One of the tests we did was load balancing, using Cisco's Multinode Load Balancing product," said Betsy Huber, product line manager at Cisco. "There is a piece that runs on the S/390. We found that we could tune that, fix it, and make it run better. So, we have already upgraded the agent and made the product changes. We will continue to find enhancements to make and new products to develop."

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