IBM will spend $100 million over the next five years to make the mainframe easier to use.
The program will focus on such areas as greater automation, modernizing the user interface and easing the way users manage the software on the machines.
It kicked off Oct. 4 with the release of the new z/OS V1.8 on System z operating system, which offers a host of new features and tools designed to make running the systems easier.
"We want the IT community to be aware that we are now working to reduce the complexity and making it easier to manage these systems," said Bob Hoey, worldwide vice president of sales for IBMs System z business.
The initiative is the latest from IBM to modernize its mainframe technology and keep the business moving forward. The Armonk, N.Y., company sees the mainframe—once thought to be a fading business line being overrun by smaller and less costly RISC and x86 systems—a growth technology, most recently highlighted in April by the release of the low-end System z Business Class mainframe. IBM announced the release at an event in China, signaling its belief that emerging countries are a key growth area for the mainframe.
Data center consolidation of multiple Unix and Windows systems is a key target area, Hoey said.
"We believe the z9 is a growth platform and that customers who dont have a mainframe today … should consider bringing in a mainframe to consolidate these disparate systems," he said.
IBM continues to have success with the mainframe. In the second quarter, the company saw revenues for the business and the MIPS (million instructions per second) shipped both jump about 7 percent over the same period last year.
The new z/OS V1.8 is the latest move to keep the mainframe business moving forward. The operating system includes the Health Checker for z/OS, which monitors systems running the OS and recommends configuration changes that can improve the performance and security, and the Omegamon z/OS Management Console, which offers a more modern GUI.
In addition, enhancements to the Hardware Configuration Manager include new configuration wizards, the ability to import and export I/O definition files, and the integrated ability to speed up the detection and resolution of performance bottlenecks. A new manual with V1.8 helps guide users though problem-solving steps.
IBMs drive to make it easier to use the mainframe comes at the same time that it is undertaking a program—dubbed zNextGen—to encourage university students to train on the platform, a move designed to stem the drain of IT professionals who work on the mainframes.
Another tact IBM is taking to keep the platform moving forward is the rollout of various specialty processors, such as the zIIP (z9 Integrated Information Processor), which help business more easily centralize back-end workloads on the mainframe.
Other such specialty engines include the IFL (Integrated Facility for Linux) chip, dedicated to Linux workloads, and the zAAP (zSeries Application Assist Processor), which incorporates Java applications into the mainframe.
Hoey said IBMs goal—as stated in its Mainframe Charter issued three years ago—is to deliver a 20 percent price/performance improvement to the platform every year, something he said the company has done for the past three years.
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