The Year in Review

Mainframe year in review, 2007

Take a trip down mainframe memory lane with our 2007 mainframe review. It was another action-packed year for mainframes: IBM released upgrades and ended support for mainframe OSes, mainframe specialty processors made an impact, large institutions migrated to and from the mainframe, and more. But before delving into this year's mainframe news, tips and analysis, get up to speed on relevant articles from last year's mainframe review.
TABLE OF CONTENTS

January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December

January
Big iron got off to a rocky start in 2007. The year-end Gartner Data Center conference offered valuable insight into the mainframe market and the place of the mainframe in the data center. At the conference, users sounded off in a survey on third-party software costs and their effect on mainframe growth. Other data from the survey revealed slow Linux adoption, favorable views of mainframe specialty engines and stark views on the aging mainframe administrator debate.

The mainframe market suffered another hit as John Pickett, Hewlett-Packard Co.'s worldwide mainframe alternative program manager, made the case for mainframe migration. Though Pickett's job description implies a certain amount of bias, he identifies valid concerns for people looking to migrate off the mainframe, such as hardware and software costs; the need to respond quickly to business changes; and disappearing skill sets.

The legal battle between IBM and plug-compatible mainframe manufacturer Platform Solutions Inc. (PSI) heated up as PSI countersued IBM for coupling its mainframe hardware with the z/OS to shut out competition. PSI's lawsuit was a response to IBM's late-2006 claim that its patents for z/OS were violated by PSI to suit its own hardware.
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February
Despite a rough January, the mainframe market made strides as CA Inc. addressed mainframe costs with zIIP specialty engine tools . The company announced tools that allow for portions of its Unicenter systems management and BrightStor storage software to run on a specialty processor for the mainframe, a move that CA said could save companies hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

We reported on the decision to ditch Unix for Linux on the mainframeby the IT department for the Canadian province of Quebec, a story that put another feather in the mainframe's cap. In addition to saving money over the life of the system, the government agency also simplifies its architecture by having one platform for its Oracle databases, facilitating future growth.

A preview of IBM's mainframe virtualization platform, z/VM 5.3, by news director Alex Barrett got data center managers and others thinking about upgrading big iron. The latest version of the platform boosts memory support, enabling mainframers to increase Linux workload consolidation.
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March
Contributor Joe Clabby weighed-in on the mainframe skills shortage debate with research and analysis that contradicted previous conclusions drawn by Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Gartner Inc.. According to Clabby, some mainframe skills are indeed in short supply. But others are readily available, especially Java and Linux skills. Further, the projected need for an army of mainframe-skilled IT professionals that can replace the soon-to-retire mainframe generation may never materialize.

In March database administrators got good news when IBM released DB2 9 for z/OS under general availability. The new version allows mainframers to more readily support XML data within their DB2 databases.
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April
April marked the end of an era when IBM stopped supporting 31-bit z/OS on the mainframe, fulfilling the end-of-service prophesy made in August of 2003. But the announcement doesn't affect 24-bit or 31-bit applications (such as CICS or IMS) running in z/OS 1.6 or later versions in 64-bit mode.

The beta version of CICS for z/OS, Version 3.2 came out in April with improved TCP/IP capabilities, giving administrators broader access to legacy mainframe applications through Web services and service-oriented architecture (SOA).
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May
Hands down, the mainframe news of the year was the  New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) migration off the mainframe to IBM System p servers running AIX and x86 HP servers running Linux. Executing NYSE's 1,600 million instructions per second on the mainframe just wasn't a cost-effective way to run the operation, according to Francis Feldman, the vice president of the shared data center for Securities Industry Automation Corp. (SIAC), NYSE's technology arm.

Though the price point for the midmarket-friendly z9 Business Class mainframe had some early successes, a year later the platform is still plagued by cost issues, such as skyrocketing third-party software, traditionally associated with big iron. In this snapshot of the z9 a year later, we ask why.
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June
With the exception of IBM's smaller z9 mainframe, which starts at about $100,000, mainframe customers can expect to pay seven digits for big iron. At an IBM event in June, System z general manager Jim Stallings  defended the cost of buying and maintaining the mainframe, saying that total cost of ownership outweighs the steep price point.

Vince Re, chief software architect for CA, addressed the apparent mainframe revenue paradox as the mainframe customer base seems to shrink even as mainframe revenue increases. In our Q&A with Re, he discusses the smaller end of the mainframe customer base and the top 10 reasons the mainframe is so important.

Resident mainframe expert Robert Crawford explored new options for site recovery on the mainframe. We've come a long way since the days of spinning backup tapes as mainframe hardware and software evolved to support redundancy and failover.

This month, mainframe administrators gained a new resource on employment prospects when z/Journal launched a mainframe job site. The job board provides a cheap and easy way for employers to post openings and for job seekers to find them.
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July
Strengthening its threat against the mainframe market, the Itanium platform consortium Itanium Solutions Alliance (ISA) joined the Mainframe Migration Alliance (MMA), a group of companies that advocate moving mainframe workloads onto the Microsoft platform. Robert Shiveley, a product line marketing manager for the server platform group at Intel Corp., contrasted Itanium-based platforms with mainframes and argued for the former.

Forty years ago, Jóhann Gunnarsson, an IBM chief maintenance engineer in Iceland, discovered that he could coax sounds out of his IBM 1401 Data Processing System. This prompted us to post a blog about Gunnarsson's musical mainframe, complete with MP3s.

Gearing up for an August event put on by IBM user group Share, past Share president Robert Rosen offered a preview for attendees. He shared his thoughts with us on zNextGen, the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), SOA and distributed computing.
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August
Far from the "Do as I say, not as I do" school of thought, IBM announced plans to consolidate its Unix and x86 servers onto mainframes. IBM hopes that the energy savings from the scale-up supports the message that mainframes are a good investment for the enterprise data center.

In August, legal disputes continued to divide the mainframe space, when mainframe software vendor CA Inc. filed a lawsuit against Rocket Software Inc.. The $200 million suit alleged that Rocket stole intellectual property from CA related to its IBM DB2 management software.

At an event hosted by IBM user group Share in August, IBM unveiled z/OS V1.9, the latest version of the mainframe operating system, which improves software scalability and makes it easier to port Unix applications to big iron. Though the OS wasn't available for another month, it was released at roughly the same time that z/OS 1.6 support from IBM concluded.

Perhaps marking a new chapter in one of the biggest rivalries in enterprise IT history, IBM and Sun announced that IBM will sell Sun Microsystems' Solaris 10 operating system subscriptions on x86 and mainframes. Analysts agree that the deal is mutually beneficial, but especially for IBM. We double-checked our analysis with David Boyes, president and chief technologist at Ashburn, Va.-based engineering firm Sine Nomine Associates, to get the straight story about Solaris on the mainframe.
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September
IBM got some competition in the mainframe space from legal sparring partner PSI as the mainframe firm announced its line of plug-compatible mainframe computers. PSI says that the systems can run z/OS as well as HP-UX, Windows and Linux simultaneously and on the same system.

Mainframe guru Robert Crawford drops another tip for big iron users. This month, he explored mainframe serviceability using SMP/E.
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October
In October, news writer Mark Fontecchio reported on Linux on the mainframe. Though making the business case for running Linux apps in a mainframe environment is complex, start by determining the volume of Linux servers your business uses.

Also making headlines was IBM's preview of the new VSE mainframe OS. VSE, or Virtual Storage Extended, is an alternative to z/OS, the more prevalent mainframe OS, and tends to run on smaller boxes in smaller companies.

Following IBM's release of z/OS V1.9 in August, expert Robert Crawford reviewed new features in the mainframe OS and gave his refreshingly honest opinion about its enhancements.

All year, concerns about the availability of mainframe jobs and skills persisted, and by October, they hadn't slowed, as we compared mainframe job boards on our data center blog. The popular blog hearkened back to reports from earlier in the year about IT jobs in general and mainframe jobs in particular.
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November
In November, we reported on Melville, N.Y.-based electronics products and service provider, Arrow Electronics Inc., which jettisoned its mainframe in favor of Oracle and Unix for enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications. Arrow stayed with IBM, using Power6-based System p servers, but had to migrate off the mainframe platform because its Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12 ERP software is not supported on z/OS or Linux on System z.

In a story that original appeared in the U.K.-based Register , we reported on mainframe reseller QSGI's deliberation about whether to leave the mainframe business. Though the company didn't refer to IBM by name, it was clear in a conversation with QSGI CEO Marc Sherman that the unnamed OEM to which he referred was the mainframe giant.

In a move presumably designed to broaden the platform's appeal, IBM rolled out Rational tools for the mainframe in November. The updates to IBM's Rational software are intended to modernize the platform to appeal to younger people who often prefer Linux and Web-like dashboards for their applications.

The SearchDataCenter.com editorial staff assembled a tip roundup on COBOL for CICS. This roundup aggregated our most recent news, tips and advice from our canon of COBOL and CICS content.
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December At the Gartner Data Center Conference, David Boyes, president and chief technologist at Ashburn, Va.-based engineering firm Sine Nomine Associates demonstrated OpenSolaris on System z Originally appearing on the data center blog, the result was a collection of videos that addressed the challenges of porting OpenSolaris to System z and the lessons learned from putting Linux on big iron.

IBM's legal saga continued with the news that mainframe vendor T3 Technologies wants to intervene in the PSI lawsuit and filed a 48-page motion in U.S. District Court in November, also claiming anticompetitive business practices by IBM.

The mainframe ended the year with a bang, as the University of Manitoba recently held a New Orleans-style jazz funeral for its mainframe, nicknamed "Betelgeuse." The event included a piñata featured here, which employees had some fun bashing.
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This was first published in December 2007

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