CA Takes Measured Workload Pricing into VSE Territory

CA last week announced a sub-capacity pricing initiative for VSE that helps bring that platform up to speed with its flashier sibling z/OS

As operating environments go, IBM Corp.’s venerable Disk Operating System/Virtual Storage Extended (VSE) hasn’t been considered sexy in years.

Being unsexy isn’t always disadvantageous, of course—especially in the steady-as-she-goes world of mainframe computing. But when it comes to new ideas like sub-capacity pricing, VSE’s unsexiness has often translated into tardiness. Last week, Computer Associates International Inc. (CA) announced a new sub-capacity pricing initiative for VSE that it says helps bring that platform up to speed, so to speak, with its flashier big brother, z/OS.

VSE has been a survivor. Today, it’s still widely used to support mission-critical workloads. It’s even been brought into the “z” age, in the form of Big Blue’s z/VSE variant. But VSE (like z/OS) can be an expensive proposition, especially with respect to workload pricing.

Over the last few years, Big Blue has done much to make pricing on its mainframe systems more affordable. Nearly five years ago, for example, IBM announced Variable Workload License Charges (VWLC) for zSeries and z/OS, followed—in late 2001—by its now ubiquitous Sub-Capacity Reporting Tool (SCRT). (Plans for a capacity-monitoring program, called IBM License Manager, were scrapped, after much gnashing of teeth.)

Most sub-capacity licensing activity has centered on z/OS—and rightly so, since VWLC isn’t supported on any other platform—but users of other IBM operating environments have a definite need for workload licensing capabilities, too. To that end, Computer Associates—which announced its first sub-capacity pricing program, FlexSelect, only eight months ago—last week announced the extension of FlexSelect to the VSE environment.

Although VWLC isn’t available for VSE, IBM does support Flat Workload License Charging (FWLC) for users of that operating environment. It’s this metric that CA is supporting with the VSE version of its FlexSelect sub-capacity pricing program.

Mark Combs, senior vice-president of corporate pricing with CA, says the VSE version of FlexSelect fulfills a promise CA made when it delivered the z/OS flavor of that program last October.

“This announcement is an extension of that program to the customers who run the VSE operating system,” he says. “[It supports] licensing based on the measured usage of the system, not based on the total capacity of the system. It’s intended to provide more flexibility to customers so that they don’t have to predict in advance what their usage patterns are going to be.”

Under the terms of CA’s FlexSelect program, baseline utilization is charged at a baseline cost, with additional utilization charged according to a pre-determined on-demand scale. Customers can choose from among several performance-measurement or resource-monitoring tools CA has approved for FlexSelect.

For example, a VSE customer with 40 MIPS might be using only half that capacity, keeping the extra juice in reserve, perhaps to accommodate future growth or seasonal spikes in demand. Under traditional CA’s traditional VSE licensing arrangement, they’d nevertheless pay for the full capacity (40 MIPS) of that mainframe; under FlexSelect’s measured workload pricing metric, however, customers pay only for the capacity they actually use.

According to Combs, VSE is still extensively used in small- and medium-size enterprise environments. As a result, he speculates, measured-workload pricing will be eagerly embraced by many of these customers, who can now proceed with upgrades without worrying about paying for capacity that they’re not using. Similarly, he says, customers who have existing CPU- or MIPS-based licenses with CA can convert them over to FlexSelect, too.

“We’re responding to customer requests. In some cases we’re a little bit ahead of the market, especially on the VSE side, because it tends to be more conservative, but I suspect that we’ll see a lot of interest, regardless,” he concludes. “The uptake is probably not going to be quite as fast just because the sales [of VSE software solutions] aren’t moving as fast, though.”

About the Author

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