IBM Touts Mainframe Resurgence

Big Iron was once again in vogue last week as IBM made a raft of new mainframe-related announcements

Big Iron was once again in vogue last week. IBM Corp. made several new mainframe-related announcements, including support from a major vendor—Computer Associates (CA)—for sub-capacity licensing on zSeries.

Elsewhere, Big Blue trumpeted new zSeries roadmaps and technology investments, along with Big-Iron initiatives designed for business partners. IBM also touted new on-demand centers in Beijing and Montpelier, France.

What it all adds up to, claims zSeries marketing manager David Mastrobattista, is a zSeries “resurgence” of sorts. For starters, he says, sales of the z890 “midrange” mainframe IBM announced earlier this year have outpaced the record-setting performance of the z800 during its fist year. IBM, of course, famously moved more than 1,000 “baby” z800 mainframes over the course of that product’s first year on the market. “The initial shipments were tracking close to double what the initial shipments were for the 800,” he confirms.

Mastrobattista notes that zSeries has posted four straight quarters of growth, and says that nearly three-quarters of the mainframe capacity IBM ships is earmarked for new workloads.

“Today, 74 percent of the MIPS that we ship out are in support of the newer workloads, things like SAP, Siebel, PeopleSoft, e-business, WebSphere, DB2, business intelligence, [and] data mining applications,” he told Enterprise Strategies. “These are all what we call the newer workload applications, and in the late 1990’s, that number was below 20 percent of the MIPS shipped.”

To help encourage the diversification of workloads on zSeries, Mastrobattista says IBM is reaching out to new and existing ISVs alike. Big Blue had a lot of success enticing new ISVs to zSeries in 2003, he argues—and the company is poised to do even better in 2004.

“When you look at 2003, we had over 50 new ISVs bringing 150 applications and solutions which were net new onto the platform,” he observes. “In 2004, we’ve already had 40 new ISVs come on to the platform, so we’re certainly targeting new ISVs. But what we’re also seeing some of the more traditional ISVs that have grown with us over time adopt certain pricing metrics that help the customers pay for the resources that they use, rather than pay for the entire size of the server.”

IBM first introduced sub-capacity pricing in tandem with z/OS and its seminal zSeries z900 systems four years ago. Roughly at the same time, says Mastrobattista, mainframe software stalwart BMC Software Corp. announced its support for workload pricing as well.

Last week, CA joined the ranks of ISVs that have pledged to support some kind of sub-capacity licensing program for zSeries. Like other workload pricing agreements, CA’s new Measured Workload Pricing plan is based on quarterly reports generated by IBM’s Sub-Capacity Reporting Tool (SCRT).

CA positions Measured Workload Pricing as an extension of its FlexSelect licensing program, and says the plan lets customers pay only for their levels of usage. The software giant plans to charge a baseline cost for capacity, with pricing for additional utilization pegged to a pre-determined on-demand scale. The key, CA officials say, is that under the new Measured Workload Pricing plan, mainframe-licensing costs are based only on the actual capacity customers use.

Software licensing is one of the most cost-prohibitive aspects of mainframe ownership. In this respect, IBM’s Mastrobattista acknowledges, mainframe ISVs need to do a better job embracing sub-capacity pricing schemes. “Whether it’s measured workloads, sub-capacity workloads, or some form of a sub-capacity licensing model, that has always been the challenge—how do you make the mainframe a more palatable cost model?”

Another challenge for Big Blue is bringing in new blood—IT professionals with mainframe skills—to offset the retirement of many existing Big Iron pros. Mastrobattista highlights the IBM Scholars zSeries Program that has thus far funded mainframe investments in more than 70 universities. IBM outlined even more ambitious goals for that program last week: a plan to train (in cooperation with partners) 20,000 new mainframe workers by 2010.

“It’s really a program that we’re excited about because it brings the mainframe skill set out into both the traditional marketplace, as well as the modern workload or new workload skills,” Mastrobattista says.

Other highlights of IBM’s Big Iron PR blast include:

-- The introduction of a new z/Transaction Processing Facility (TPF) operating system that’s designed for high-availability transaction processing in specific verticals, including banking and financial services. The new system supports 64-bit zSeries and taps Linux to create a hybrid operating environment that can process up to 25,000 transactions per second.

-- New zSeries support for IBM Virtualization Engine Systems Services, via the delivery of its long-awaited Enterprise Workload Manager for z/OS, which should be available later this quarter. Enterprise Workload Manager is said to enable end-to-end monitoring and management of applications across IBM platforms.

  • The introduction, in Q1 2005, of GDPS Hyperswap Manager for single site recovery, which officials say provides a new entry-level solution for dynamic management of disk subsystems.

  • GDPS Multi-Platform Resiliency for zSeries, which provides support for Linux on zSeries running as a z/VM guest. This feature should be available this month.


  • The establishment of a new mainframe proof-of-concept and benchmarking laboratory in Bejing designed to enhance IBM’s technical sales support and services in China. Big Blue says the new center will help businesses quickly deploy mainframe-based solutions, as well as work with key universities in China to develop courses and curriculum to train future IBM mainframe-skilled workers.

  • A prototype of an on-demand operating environment based in IBM’s Montpelier, France testing center. Big Blue says the facility is designed to demonstrate a “day in the life of a bank” with the mainframe as its centerpiece.

About the Author

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