IBM zAAPs z/OS Upgrade with Speed, Improved Scalability

Big Blue also previews z/OS version 7, due out next year

IBM has been busy with announcements. Earlier this month the company announced a new "version 6" release of its z/OS operating environment, previewed z/OS version 7, and touted the achievement of an unprecedented security certification for zSeries.

One of the biggest attractions in z/OS 1.6 is support for the zSeries Application Assist Processor (zAAP), which Big Blue first announced back in April in conjunction with the introduction of its then-new z890 mainframe (see http://www.esj.com/vendor_news/article.asp?EditorialsID=167). IBM positions zAAP as a specialized processor designed to speed the execution of Java applications—or of any workloads with Java cycles, such as WebSphere Application Server or DB2.

zAPP is important—Java is a notoriously resource-intensive language, after all—but IBM officials point to a number of other z/OS 1.6 enhancements, including improved workload management, better IP network availability, new z/OS Unix commands, 64-bit C/C++ application development support, and new C/C++ compiler options for z890 and z990 servers.

The new Unix command set, for example, is consistent with IBM’s strategy to make zSeries a more attractive platform for application developers who traditionally work with Unix, says Mary Moore, zSeries z/OS marketing manager. The idea, says Moore, is to let Unix programmers develop, test, and deploy their applications on z/OS. “This is true for customer application developers and also for software vendors—like SAP and Seibel and many vendors who write industry-specific applications,” she says.

The new z/OS 1.6 C and C++ application development support, on the other hand, is geared toward a different audience, Moore confirms. “This is a requirement primarily driven by middleware-product providers and application vendors, although certainly customers can use this for their own application development,” she confirms. “We have had 64-bit application development capabilities in Assembler … but not for C/C++, and [this] is the last major step in completing the z/OS 64-bit roadmap,” she explains.

Elsewhere, enhancements to the z/OS 1.6 C and C++ compiler include improved scalability as well as support for the standard LP64 programming model, which enables developers to exploit virtual memory in excess of 2 GB. The revamped z/OS also features two new C and C++ compiler options designed to exploit hardware features on IBM’s z890 and z990 mainframes. Finally, IBM has further tweaked the compiler to support invocation commands that allow for the use of a configuration file when running under z/OS Unix.

“These commands provide increased portability and stability in migrating to future releases of the compiler,” explains Moore.

IBM also plans to deliver a new 64-bit Java 1.4.1 SDK, she notes.

Finally, Big Blue introduced sub-capacity pricing for zSeries products that are licensed under its International Program License Agreement (IPLA).

Under the terms of IPLA, customers can purchase select zSeries software for a one-time charge and an optional maintenance charge. According to Marcy Nechemias, zSeries software pricing manager, Big Blue offers a variety of utilities through IPLA, including DB2 Tools, IMS Tools, CICS Tools, plus Application Development Tools.

Daniel McLaughlin, a mainframe operator with a prominent insurance company based in the Southeast, says he’s intrigued by some of the features in the new z/OS release, but is still in the midst of a transition from OS/390.

“The truth is we are quite far from z/OS 1.6. We just installed a z890 a few weeks back and are moving to it over Labor Day weekend. At the present, because we're coming from a G3 box, we're still running OS/390 2.10,” he says. McLaughlin says that his organization plans to test and then move to z/OS 1.4 on production LPARs, with migrations to z/OS 1.5 and 1.6 expected in the future. “Of course, we'll be upgrading products along the way, so it's all quite ambitious.”

In tandem with its z/OS 1.6 announcement, IBM gave users a glimpse of z/OS 1.7, which is slated to ship next September. Key features include C and C++ ANSI C99 Standard compliance and an improved z/OS Load Balancing Advisor. Big Blue also plans to integrate its IBM Health Checker—a tool for assessing the use of best practices—more tightly with z/OS.

z/OS 1.6 will be available on September 24.

zSeries Nets EAL5 Security Certification

Also earlier this month, Big Blue disclosed that its z800, z900, and z990 systems have earned the Common Criteria Evaluation Assurance Level 5 (EAL5) certification. According to Moore, the EAL5 certification essentially validates that applications running in separate logical partitions on zSeries are well isolated from one another. This has always been important in the government sector, but is increasingly of interest to commercial users. “Commercial users are now increasingly concerned with security issues and they frequently demand that their systems have security certification similar to those of governments,” she says.

IBM could soon be touting additional certifications for zSeries, says Moore: z/OS 1.6 with the RACF optional feature is currently being evaluated for Common Criteria certification at Controlled Access Protection Profile (CAPP) EAL3+ and Labeled Security Protection Profile (LSPP) EAL 3+ .

About the Author

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