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IBM upgrades z/OS; makes $100M commitment to mainframe

IBM upgrades z/OS, the mainframe operating system, saying it is easier to use and offers more functionality. Meanwhile, it has announced a $100 million investment in the next five years.

IBM upgrades z/OS, its operating system for the mainframe, aiming to make it easier to manage, especially for those who might be new to the platform.

z/OS v1.8 comes a year after the last release of the operating system, which focused on automation. Big Blue said the new version's enhancements include:

  • Support for the z9 Integrated Information Processor (zIIP)
  • An image of z/OS that will be able to support 4 terabytes (TB) of real memory whenever the mainframe is able to deliver it, an increase from 128 GB in the previous version.
  • A new component called XML System Services designed to help users parse XML documents for use in service-oriented architecture (SOA) environments.
  • RACF support for up to 100 characters, an upgrade from the eight-character pass phrases previously.
  • Other enhancements include faster data replication to IBM storage devices and simplification of the user interface.

    Steve Ware, systems coordinator of computing and networking services at the University of Florida, said they're running z/OS v1.6 and are testing 1.7.

    "What we try to do is stay fairly current, leading edge but not bleeding edge," he said. "We probably will go to z/OS 1.8 next year."

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    The main focus of the new release is on welcoming newer users of the operating system by making it easier to use. Simplifying the mainframe will include making it easier for IT managers to detect and fix problems on the machine, making the user interface graphics-friendly and keeping software for the platform affordable.

    Clay Ryder, president of Union City, Calif.-based Sageza Group, said that simplifying the user experience on the mainframe should be secondary to simplifying the operation of the applications.

    Bob Hoey, IBM vice president of mainframe sales, said that a valid criticism of IBM in the past was that it developed too much in "vertical silos," as he put it, meaning that z/OS and the applications that can run on top of them, such as WebSphere and Rational products, were developed without enough collaboration between the groups. Hoey said that has since changed, making for a better integration of z/OS with the mainframe applications.

    The news IBM wanted most to sell, however, was an announcement that it would be investing about $100 million on the mainframe in the next five years to reinstate and increase its presence in the data center.

    Ryder added that the $100 million investment is significant. "They're not just putting a pink cover on it and saying, 'Look, it's a Z-pod.'"

    In IBM's most recent quarterly earnings report, the mainframe was its only server line to have increased revenues since the same time last year.

    IBM claims that part of the reason for those positive returns was the introduction this spring of the z9 Business Class, a smaller mainframe that starts around $100,000. Hoey said the company already invests about $1 billion a year in the platform; the extra money will be to help drive down the total cost of ownership (TCO) for users that either own a mainframe or are thinking of buying one, as well as convincing people that the platform is easier to use than in the past.

    Ware, meanwhile, said IBM should focus on offering software discounts to colleges and universities because that could get mainframes and mainframe applications back into educational institutions, and therefore back into the mainstream.

    Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer

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