CA Inc. has announced a new mainframe product licensing scheme to address a dire issue for mainframe users: software costs.
In a poll from Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Gartner Inc., 58% said that the "single largest inhibitor" to mainframe growth in their data center was either IBM or third-party software costs. With its announcement, CA aims to ease some of those concerns by offering customers software discounts when their capacity grows, mainly by encouraging users to buy according to millions of service units (MSUs) rather than millions of instructions per second (MIPS).
Though details were sparse, CA said that MSU pricing for one of its security or workload automation products running on a mainframe with 1,000 million service units (MSUs) would be one-third less than on a comparable 7,000 million instructions per second (MIPS) machine.
Because MIPS is a measure of processor speed alone, it has come under fire for its inaccuracy as a measure of how well a system performs. Other factors, such as memory and I/O bandwidth, affect how well software executes within the mainframe. This is why IBM began licensing its software according to MSUs, which measure how much processing a computer can perform in an hour.
"The argument has always been that MIPS is not a true mainframe measure of performance," said Richard Ptak, an analyst at Ptak Noel & Associates. It's been a problem forever now."
Mark Combs, a CA senior vice president, put it this way: MIPS can't measure the actual consumption of work, while MSUs can. MIPS are also capacity based, meaning that users who pay according to MIPS are often paying for capacity they don't need. With MSUs, users can choose capacity- or consumption-based pricing. Shops that run close to 100% utilization most of the time might go with capacity-based pricing, while those who run only at 40% most of the time would go with consumption based to save money.
Product "suites" and free consulting
Aside from the licensing change, CA has also organized similar software products into "suites." The new suites address performance management, security, tape utilization and compliance, resource management, database performance, and automated storage optimization.
Combs said that there are no new products involved in the announcement. Ptak said that offering software in suites allows mainframe users to simplify how many applications – and how many vendors – they use.
"I think that anything they can do to simplify the process makes sense," he said. "If it gets complicated, people get frustrated."
CA also announced something it calls a Mainframe Value Program, which is a free consulting service in which a CA employee examines a customer's CA software to make sure the software is up to date and running as best they can. Combs said the consulting offering arose from a company restructuring last year that created a specific mainframe division and wanting to have more of a presence for existing mainframe customers.
"Part of this is kind of a catch-up from the past," he said. "We haven't had much of a field presence. We have good customer relations, but we haven't spent a lot of time in front of customers talking about solutions."