IBM previews next VSE mainframe operating system

Version 4.2 of z/VSE isn't expected out until the end of 2008, but IBM is previewing support for additional tasks and more storage.

IBM Corp. is previewing the next version of z/VSE, which will increase the ceiling on how many tasks the mainframe operating system can handle as well as quadruple the amount of storage it supports.

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VSE, which stands for Virtual Storage Extended, is an alternative to z/OS, the more prevalent mainframe OS, and tends to run on smaller boxes in smaller companies. As a result, it competes more with Unix and even x86 systems for a share of the marketplace.

With this latest version, z/VSE will help increase the number of workloads that users can run. Features of z/VSE 4.2 include the following:

  • An increased number of tasks that z/VSE can handle, up from its current limit of 255; Klaus Goebel, a z/VSE project leader, said he didn't yet know how high the new limit would be.
  • Increased storage support from 8 GB to 32 GB; this increase in processor storage support will reduce paging. Along with the increase in tasks, this will allow z/VSE users to increase the number and intensity of their workloads.
  • Encryption Facility for z/VSE, previously only available on z/OS, which allows encryption to disk as well as tape; it also includes a Java client for business partners to decrypt those files.
  • An enhancement to z/VSE subcapacity pricing that allows a subcapacity reporting tool to run on z/VSE. This will enable users and IBM to more easily determine how many million instructions per second (MIPS) they're running on the operating system.

IBM gets proactive
The ability to run a subcapacity reporting tool on z/VSE, and not just z/OS, should eliminate a lot of back and forth between customers and IBM, said Goebel. Today, the process works this way: A user collects data on z/VSE and send it to IBM, where someone runs the data through the tool on z/OS, before sending the results back to a user.

IBM has addressed [task limits] before anyone I know has actually hit [them].
Pete Clark,
presidentCPR Systems

But for Pete Clark, president of CPR Systems, which provides education on mainframe operating systems, z/VSE's central new feature will be the removal of the 255-task limitation. While none of his clients have hit that number -- the highest he's seen has been around 200 -- he considered the task limits as "the next stumbling block for VSE users trying to increase their capability."

This marks a change from years past, when Clark said Big Blue was too reactive.

"A bunch of years ago, users would hit the limit before IBM would take care of the restriction," he said. "Now IBM has addressed this before anyone I know has actually hit it. I think it indicates that they're trying to stay ahead of the base."

The same goes for the storage support, said Clark: "They're announcing support sooner rather than later so users won't hit a limit."

It will be a while before z/VSE 4.2 comes out; IBM is aiming for the fourth quarter of next year. But Goebel said the company likes to preview operating system upgrades to ensure that development continues.

"Customers always have a question about whether this will be the last release of z/VSE," he said. "We launch a new release every 18 months. There is no reason for this to stop."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer. You can also check out our Server Specs blog.

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