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IBM VSE mainframe operating system gets upgrade

IBM VSE, one of three mainframe operating systems, has a new version that just became generally available.

IBM has upgraded the VSE mainframe operating system to include storage, security and networking improvements, as well as introduced pricing schemes that can lower mainframe software licensing costs.

With z/VSE 4.1, IBM has introduced pricing that includes a so-called subcapacity measurement tool. Using this, mainframers can pay for the MIPS that they use on z/VSE, rather than being charged for how many total MIPS are on the box. The z/VSE 4.1 is now generally available.

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"There are a couple of new pricing facilities," said Pete Clark of CPR Systems, which provides education on mainframe operating systems. "There may be a class of customers out there who can reduce their cost by taking on one of these pricing facilities."

Other new features of z/VSE 4.1 include:

  • 64-bit storage addressing, which allows use of up to 8 GB of storage for each z/VSE image to reduce paging.
  • Large volume support of IBM storage devices formatted for the mainframe for up to 64 KB cylinders.
  • Support for SecureFTP and the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) for 128-bit keys available later through a program temporary fix.

Larry Eckblad, executive vice president at FirstBank Data Corp., the centralized operations subsidiary for the FirstBank Holding Co., said the company has been using z/VSE "forever," meaning since it first bought a mainframe more than 40 years ago. The bank now runs a System z9 Business Class mainframe, which IBM released last year.

"It's what we wrote our applications in," he said. "We have a lot of capital investment in that."

The company is looking to upgrade from z/VSE 3.1.2 to z/VSE 4.1 later this year, though Eckblad said there isn't a specific timeframe. He said the bank is particularly interested in the new encryption features, specifically the tape encryption that z/VSE 4.1 will support on IBM TS1120 tape drives.

Meanwhile, CA Inc. announced that its mainframe software for z/VSE, including Explore Performance Management and Top Secret, will be supported on the new version. Mark Combs, a senior vice president and general manager at CA, said z/VSE users tend to be small to midsized businesses with smaller mainframes. Large operations, such as big financial banks and financial houses, will run z/OS because it can do more.

"It's sort of a light version," he said. "A less sophisticated, less expensive, less complicated version."

Combs said z/VSE has it tougher than z/OS because it has more to compete with. While z/OS is the only viable operating system for Fortune 100 companies running the biggest mainframes, z/VSE sometimes has to compete with Unix and even x86 systems for a share of the marketplace.

But it's still kicking.

"It's been an issue throughout the history of VSE," Clark said. "Its demise has been predicted a number of times over the last 40 years but it hasn't happened. VSE is alive and well."

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

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