IBM is working to make the mainframe - with its reputation for resilience and security - a key element not only in companies' legacy environments but also in their future IT blueprints.
Big Blue has used recent customer events in New York, Paris and Tokyo to share future plans for its venerable mainframe computing platform, which celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this year.
Customers are looking for the mainframe to play a wider role in a heterogeneous IT infrastructure, says Colette Martin, a zSeries program director at IBM.
Analysts say mainframe customers continue to invest in the platform. At a recent data center conference, Gartner polled mainframe users and found the larger sites are not scaling back their mainframe investment, but are continuing to grow the platform through legacy and new workloads such as Linux applications.
While the number of IBM mainframe installations has declined each year - because of sales at the low, sub-100 MIPS end of the market - the number of million instructions per second IBM annually ships and the amount of mainframe capacity installed continues to grow, Gartner says.
To continue that success, IBM unveiled a variety of technology upgrades planned for its zSeries mainframe family.
Extending the mainframe's management capabilities is one tactic. IBM plans to deliver by year-end its Enterprise Workload Manager for z/OS designed to let companies monitor and manage applications across IBM eServer platforms - not just across its zSeries mainframe systems. Existing z/OS workload management tools will be able to interface with the workload managers implemented in other eServer operating systems, IBM says.
Another forthcoming feature enables backup and recovery of single-site systems. IBM's Geographically Dispersed Parallel Sysplex (GDPS) Hyperswap Manager for single-site recovery is an entry-level version of existing technology, aimed at smaller companies with single mainframe sites, Martin says. Due early next year, the utility lets companies dynamically manage disk subsystems across one site.
Also designed to ease IT budget strain is IBM's Communication Controller for Linux on zSeries, due by mid-2005. The technology is aimed at simplifying the integration of legacy SNA networks with Linux applications; it replaces functions provided by IBM's discontinued 3745 and 3746 Communications Controllers.
Instead of relying on outboard units that sit outside of the mainframe to handle SNA communications, the new communication controller resides on a zSeries mainframe to simplify setups and reduce costs, Martin says.
To help make zSeries suitable for a range of applications, IBM announced support for zSeries Application Assist Processor (zAAP) with z/OS 1.6. A specialized Java execution processor, zAAP is designed to increase Java performance on the mainframe.
ZAAP is an engine to run mainframe, Java-based workloads, Martin says. Users can offload Java instructions from the zOS engine to the zAAP engine, and free standard mainframe processing capacity for other work or to save money - users don't incur IBM software charges for anything that runs on zAAP, she says.
IBM has had special processing gear to handle Linux workloads - with its Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) processor, for example. The zAAP engine is similar technology for Java, Martin says.
IBM also announced the z/Transaction Processing Facility (z/TPF) Enterprise Edition V1.1.0 - an operating system designed for high availability transaction processing. Capable of processing tens of thousands of transactions per second, z/TPF supports C/C++ and 64-bit zSeries architectures. It also supports the latest zSeries 10G Ethernet adapters on IBM's zSeries 890 and 990 server lines.
Z/TPF brings the increased productivity of a modern Linux development environment to TPF - which is critical for responding quickly to changing user requirements, says David Lauderdale, CTO and senior vice president at travel services provider Worldspan in Atlanta. "In our business, we need to be able to rapidly respond to thousands of users on a global basis with information that is changing every second," Lauderdale said in a statement.