IBM Wants the Mainframe to be an IT DestinationBy Scott Ferguson Print
Big Blue is opening a new gathering site for System z customers and ISVs and also is offering additional management features.
NEW YORKIBM wants its mainframe servers to be more than just high-end hardware.
With that in mind, IBM launched its Destination z program June 21, which looks to give the company's mainframe customers, ISVs and partners a new Web portal to discuss and debate different aspects of mainframe technology.
Unlike its Blade.org initiative, which involves more of a technical discussion, Destination z will allow mainframe customers to exchange ideas as well as look for partners with mainframe skills, said Jim Stallings, general manager of IBM's System z.
"Destination z is a collection of partners that have expertise in the mainframe and who will work with other IBM customers to help move more work onto the mainframe," Stalling said at an event here. "As a platform, the mainframe is more secure, has better virtualization capabilities and it is easier to migrate workloads from other systems. With Destination z, our customers can look for those with the skills to help them integrate their mainframes and partners to help them on projects."
Although IBM launched this new program June 21, Destination z already has 28 partners, including mainframe customers such as Scottish Power, an energy company; Univar, a chemical supplier; and Aurora Health Care.
The Destination z program, in addition to several new management features, are all part of IBM's push to recast and modernize its mainframe technology. In October, the Armonk, N.Y., company announced that it would spend $100 million over five years to simplify and enhance the mainframe's management features and interface.
Since announcing that it would refocus its energy on the mainframe, IBM has looked to position its System z offerings as an alternative to x86 and RISC systems, and as a way to consolidate Unix and Windows systems onto one platform. Although mainly thought of as an enterprise-only system, IBM has begun marketing mainframes as alternatives for midmarket and SMB (small and midsize businesses) customers as well.
According to IDC's May 23 server survey, IBM's System z has now had four quarters of growth, including 11.7 percent growth in the first quarter of 2007 over the same period last year.
The additional management features introduced for the z/OS V1.8 on System z operating system, which IBM also introduced in October, include new security, audit and compliance technology features that Big Blue acquired when it bought Consul Dec. 5, 2006. The technology has now been integrated into the mainframe as the zSecure V1.8.1 suite.
"The security software has a double advantage because customers are already running the most secure platform out there," Stallings said. "This now gives our mainframe users a way to analyze threats in real time and allows them to redesign security policies in real time."
IBM also introduced new enhancements to the mainframe's z/VM virtualization software, which now offers 10 times more virtual memory and support for up to 256GB of real memory.
Finally, IBM rolled out a new analytic piece of software called IT Value Based Analytics (ITVBA), which will measure the resources used in the data center. Stallings said customers can use ITVBA as a way to measure the performance of applications running on x86 servers compared to those on the mainframe, and then strike a balance between the two systems.
Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata, said the new management features IBM rolled out for its mainframes offer several improvements, including support for different types of environments and richer share capabilities. However, he said IBM still has a long way to go before offering a complete set of management tools that can cut across a wide array of applications, including the ones in IBM's own portfolio.
"One of the big disadvantages is IBM's own diverse offering and trying to create a management tool to handle all the products there," Haff said. "HP, with its Systems Insight Manager, offers a little more consistency across its own product line. However, IBM has made a lot of direct improvements. There's always going to be some inconsistencies, which is inevitable."
IBM executives said they will continue to make improvements to the mainframe's management features, with more automation and a simpler interface. Stallings said IBM adds value to the mainframe management through its own experience with the hardware and software and its ability to deliver services to customers.
"Through our services division, we are engaged with our customers and their next projects and we want to work hand-in-hand with them to help move them with their next-generation infrastructure," Stallings said.
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