CA Brings Sub-Capacity Pricing to Low-MIPS, Emulated Mainframes

Mainframe emulation systems are often used in production settings, too—depending on the needs of customers

You’ve got to hand it to Computer Associates International Inc. (CA): It’s a company that knows a winning play when it sees one.

Over the last few weeks, CA has made two sub-capacity licensing announcements. Both could probably have been made at the same time, but—given the monotony of the midsummer technology news cycle—CA banked on getting twice the publicity—successfully, at that.

That’s not the way CA officials see it, of course. “Even though they’re similar [announcements], they’re different types of messaging, for different types of customers,” says Mark Combs, senior VP of corporate pricing with CA, who also cites several off-the-record logistical considerations. “We considered doing both announcements at once, but for clarity of message we’re just trying to separate it because we wanted to separate the components of our pricing strategy.”

To recap, CA last week announced support for capacity-based pricing on low-MIPS emulated z/Architecture and System/390 environments. A few weeks ago, CA announced support for sub-capacity licensing (via its FlexSelect program) on Big Blue’s Virtual Storage Extended (VSE) platform.

The company bills the new low-MIPS pricing policy as another extension of FlexSelect, the sub-capacity pricing program CA first announced last October. Like similar initiatives from IBM Corp., BMC Software Corp., and others, FlexSelect is based on a millions of CPU service units (MSU) pricing metric.

Given some of the scenarios in which IBM’s emulated z/Architecture and System/390 systems (which are powered by Intel-based engines) are frequently deployed, a sub-capacity pricing scheme isn’t exactly a no-brainer. Emulated zSeries is very popular for mainframe training, for example, and is also a frequently tapped solution for mainframe application development.

In both cases, expensive production workloads usually aren’t a concern. Nevertheless, says CA’s Combs, emulated zSeries is sometimes deployed in production environments, particularly by customers with much older mainframe hardware that don’t need the über-capacity of IBM’s native zSeries servers.

“It’s mainly secondary machines. They’re used a lot by developers who are developing applications for the mainframe, or they’re used on a departmental basis,” Combs explains. “In some cases, though, they are supporting a production workload, so if you’re a small enough environment, and if you just don’t need the capacity of a new mainframe, it’s an attractive option.”

Emulation or no, IBM’s low-MIPS offerings run standard mainframe operating environments. Companies such as Cornerstone Systems Inc. and T3 Technologies market low-MIP (i.e., 80 MIPS and under) mainframes designed to emulate Big Blue’s z/Architecture and S/390 systems. These and other low-MIPS solutions exploit FLEX-ES, the Big Iron emulation technology first developed by Fundamental Software Inc.

About the Author

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

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