Since mainframe software is charged based on the usage of the core mainframe processor, IBM has developed "specialty" processors, which provide a way for businesses to lower the software by offloading applications to a second, lower-cost processor. The IFL specialty processor runs Linux applications, while zIIP focuses on databases and zAAP on Java.
Trevor Eddolls, managing director of IT consultant iTech-Ed Eddolls, estimates that when SAP is run on the IFL specialty Linux processor, it can save a business a considerable amount of money in terms of server consolidation. He says users can run multiple Linux systems, with all the advantages of a mainframe. In effect, a multi-tier SAP application, with databases, presentation and application servers, that previously would have required an entire room of servers and associated network equipment, can all be run on a single System z mainframe. Trevor Eddolls says, "The mainframe does not fall over. There are no mainframe viruses. It is an absolutely stable and secure platform, with five nines uptime (99.999%)." This equates to 5.26 minutes of downtime per year.
Taking the specialty processor route further, software company Neon Software has developed an innovative way for users to slash their mainframe software costs by enabling mainframe applications to run directly on the IFL, zIIP and zAAP processors.
IBM recently announced an initiative to offer data warehousing, electronic payments, service orientated architecture and disaster recovery on the System z mainframe.
Ian Bramley, managing director at analyst Software Strategies, says this latest development means IBM is now trying to attract new customers and applications to the mainframe. "IBM has spent $10 billion on the mainframe platform over the last 10 years. It is now offering a complete package at a significantly lower cost than existing mainframe software" he says. Bramley estimates the cost of these packages now puts IBM mainframe systems within 20% of the cost of an HP Integrity-based system, which he believes makes a compelling case for users to deploy applications on the mainframe.
IBM has had virtualisation on the mainframe since the 1960s when it developed a hypervisor called VM. The VM hypervisor allowed the mainframe to be partitioned, enabling it to run multiple applications independently. Thanks to the popularity of VMWare and Citrix, many IT departments now use virtualisation to run multiple Windows applications across a cluster of PC servers. Virtualisation has effectively created a mainframe-like environment for PC servers.
But the mainframe is not standing still. Six months ago, a company called Mantissa introduced z/Vos, which lets users run multiple copies of Windows on VM partitions on the mainframe. Mantissa's z/Vos has the potential to revolutionise PC server consolidation, according to some industry experts, in the same way that SuSE Linux on the mainframe has made it possible for users to run SAP on Linux mainframe partitions.
Plugging the mainframe skills gap >>
This was first published in September 2009