IBM Delivers WebSphere 5.0 for z/OS and OS/390

New licensing model lowers the bar for native deployment

IBM Corp. this week will announce the availability of version 5.0 of its WebSphere Application Server for z/OS and OS/390. The revamped WebSphere 5.0 boasts enhanced support for Web services standards along with what Big Blue claims is a more mainframe-friendly licensing model.

According to John Swainson, IBM’s general manager for application integration middleware, WebSphere 5.0 is a “watershed” release of Big Blue’s flagship application server for OS/390 and z/OS. “It really represents the synthesis of stuff that we’ve been doing to both optimize the 390 platform and to make sure that we have a common programming model for Websphere,” Swainson stresses.

As a case in point, Swainson points to new support for the open source Eclipse tool set in WebSphere 5.0 for z/OS. He suggests that the availability of a “modern” programming environment such as Eclipse—in which applications for WebSphere 5.0 running on z/OS can be developed and tested on Windows, Linux, or Unix systems—is central to IBM’s long-term strategy for both WebSphere and z/OS. “We’ve been of the belief that what we had to do was bring a modern approach to programming on the enterprise server, such that we could allow people to build applications on best-of-breed kind of tools, and yet have the applications still deploy in the enterprise environment.”

Swainson says that WebSphere 5.0 for z/OS is designed to take advantage of “unique characteristics” of the z/OS operating environment. The result, he claims, is that “we can scale apps on 390 in a way that we can’t scale them on any other platform.” WebSphere 5.0 support for native S/390 and zSeries features includes support for Parallel Sysplex clustering “that allow it to do clustering and workload management, with the security of fault tolerance capabilities.” In WebSphere 5.0 for distributed systems, on the other hand, clustering and workload management are “actually managed by the clustering support in WebSphere.”

The new version of WebSphere for z/OS also boasts support for memory-to-memory services, allowing for a high-speed transfer of data between two different applications running in the same LPAR. WebSphere 5.0 for z/OS also features hyperchannel for transfers between applications or services running in different LPARs.

Finally, Swainson contends, the native autonomic capabilities of IBM’s mainframe systems are far superior to those found in other environments. As a result, he argues, “[Websphere 5.0 for z/OS] takes advantage of that and allows you to do things like workload recovery that allow you to operate WebSphere in a 390 environment at much higher levels of availability than anywhere else.”

Also key, Swainson indicates, is new support for Web services and for J2EE version 1.3. WebSphere 5.0 for z/OS is reported to be J2EE 1.4-ready, as it includes support for many J2EE 1.4-specific technologies.

New Licensing Model

All talk of technology aside, the biggest new development in WebSphere 5.0 for z/OS is probably its pricing model. Through its history on Big Iron, WebSphere has traditionally been licensed on a per-processor basis—to the tune of $35,000 per processor on WebSphere 4.0. Customers were also required to purchase licenses for all processors—regardless of whether WebSphere was running on them.

That will change in WebSphere 5.0, which for the first time features a capacity-based pricing model pegged to so-called Value Units, which Swainson says are calculated based on the Millions of Service Units (MSU) capacity of zSeries mainframes. “It’s the way we price many of the products in the System 390 arena. We are changing to the native pricing model of the 390 and making some enhancements to the way we price it such that customers can get started more easily, they can buy a very simple, relatively low-cost entry into the platform.”

Consequently, Swainson says, customers on older, less-powerful mainframe systems will save money: “Because it’s based on MSUs, customers on older mainframes will actually end up paying less in this model, because it’s now based on the capacity of this machine, not on the arbitrary fact that there’s an engine or not. It’s decoupled from engine size."

Swainson says that IBM will provide a tool to help customers determine how many Value Units they need based on their hardware. IBM will also offer a variety of different licensing plans: For example, a customer can buy 10 Value Units starting at $2,300 per unit, whereas a customer can purchase 100 Value Units and pay 80 percent less per Unit based on the same zSeries model.

IBM Claims 500 WebSphere Customers

IBM provides customers with at least two ways to run WebSphere on their S/390 or zSeries mainframes: Either on Linux IFLs or natively on OS/390 or z/OS. According to Swainson, the majority of customers have opted for the native approach. “I don‘t have the split in front of me, but my intuition here is that about 80 percent of our customers are using [WebSphere natively on] z/OS, and the other 20 percent are using [WebSphere running in] Linux.”

Swainson says that IBM has “well over 500 customers who are using WebSphere” on S/390 or zSeries systems today, including customers such as State Farm Insurance Companies “who are using it very actively.”

Accelerated Delivery Schedule

Big Blue shipped ( WebSphere 5.0 for distributed platforms in November 2002.

In spite of the near-six-month delay in delivering an equivalent version for Big Iron, Swainson says that IBM remains committed to delivering future versions of WebSphere for mainframe environments within 90 days of the availability of the application server for distributed systems.

“Our goal is to be within 90 days [of WebSphere for distributed systems]. We are not currently meeting our goal,” Swainson acknowledges. “But I am not hung up on schedule here; I am, first of all, concerned that we deliver a product that meets the characteristics and the requirements of our customers, and so I will always end up defaulting here to deliver the right product and the time it takes to deliver the right product.”

Swainson and other IBMers stress that a lot more is typically at stake during the development and testing of WebSphere for z/OS—particularly the fact that all WebSphere for z/OS customers will be deploying the application server with mixed workloads on mainframe hardware. “There’s the whole question of availability and the ability to operate in a mixed workload environment, because very often in mixed Unix or Windows environments, WebSphere‘s the only thing running on the whole machine, so I don’t need to test with a mixture of complex workloads. In the 390 [environment], it’s never the only thing running.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.