Mainframe year in review 2010

The mainframe had a busy year in 2010: IBM rolled out its next-generation zEnterprise and Big Blue continued its legal scuffle with Neon Enterprise Software.

You laughed, you may have cried, and it’s certainly possible you might have whiplash from all of the lawsuits. Contributor Robert Crawford was correct in his prediction that 2010 was going to be hectic for the mainframe. It was a year filled with legal battles and an ambitious re-imagining of the mainframe, among other events, including a shaky future for OpenSolaris on System z. 2010 thrust the mainframe into the limelight once again, and for good reason. 

Big Blue brings multi-architecture to the mainframe
Bar none, the biggest mainframe announcement of 2010 was IBM’s zEnterprise, or the z196. The platform, released in September, was a little more than a “z11” cycle refresh: to IBM it signaled a new direction for the mainframe. ZEnterprise embraces Unix and Linux and manages workloads running across System z, Power7 and System x systems under a single umbrella.

While the z196 touted a “multi-architecture” strategy, the mainframe of the future was initially met with a wait-and-see attitude from data center managers. Attendees at the Gartner Data Center Conference reaffirmed this cautious attitude despite projected strong Q4 earnings for the z196’s core audience. An overwhelming majority of end users also were unimpressed with the z196’s optional BladeCenter Extension – 98% of polled Gartner attendees at a session don’t plan to utilize z196’s blades by the end of the year. 2011 will truly tell, though, whether initially hesitant managers are buying into IBM’s multi-architecture.

But z10 is still not forgotten
Even Big Blue’s roll out of the z196 couldn’t stop the z10 and its continued importance in the data center. Mainframe expert Robert Crawford highlighted the mainframe and working with its CPU Measurement Facility (CPU-MF), a relatively new z10 feature that captures detailed processor information used for debugging and performance measurement. A subsequent column detailed using hardware instrumentation services to get CPU-MF output.

z/OS 1.12 is released
The operating system behind z196 was announced in February and released in the fall, and addressed a problem mainframers have had for decades by taking on application availability. Other new features of IBM z/OS 1.12 included control area reclaim, significant security enhancements including Elliptic Curve Cryptography and Run Time Diagnostics, which detects errors and gathers necessary information to reduce human troubleshooting time.

IBM and Neon continue to duke it out
Between Big Blue and Neon Enterprise Software, more suits were being tossed around in 2010 than contained in Don Draper’s wardrobe. As you’ll remember from 2009, Neon sued IBM over unlawful mainframe practices after IBM claimed that Neon’s zPrime software, which aimed to save admins millions by offloading lots of work to IBM specialty processors, violated its licensing agreements.  

The bickering continued with IBM responding with a countersuit of Neon Software, which mainframe expert Robert Crawford said would only hurt IBM’s already tattered image.  Neon decided to name names in an amended complaint against IBM which detailed customers that IBM attempted to bully off of zPrime. Other companies also joined the rally against IBM with anti-trust lawsuits in Europe, and the European Commission joined in the fun with its probe of IBM’s mainframe practices. Neon prepped for a resolution in their favor by offering its zPrime for a buck, possibly in order to gain more users for leverage in their case against IBM. At the current time, the Neon zPrime/IBM battle is in limbo.

We conclude our mainframe year in review 2010 with Robert Crawford’s idea of running z/OS on x86, which generated a flurry of responses from our readers, including some that indicated that there are platforms that already put the mainframe on smaller machines. Crawford addressed these comments with the idea that offering z/OS on x86 would help IBM expand into the small business market, and highlighted the zPDT, which offers developers z/OS on the desktop.

Ryan Arsenault is the Assistant Editor for

See our Mainframe year in review 2009.

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