IBM will ship the latest version of its WebSphere application server for the operating system z/OS and introduce a new pricing model for the product next week.
The earlier version of WebSphere for z/OS had been priced at a fixed $35,000 (£22,000) per processor. The new edition will adopt the value-unit pricing model that is familiar to IBM's mainframe customers, said David Chew, director of WebSphere enterprise transaction systems.
"We changed for the zSeries because these processors tend to be rather big and powerful, and customers are used to a pricing model that is more akin with their hardware structure," he said.
Value units are calculated based on the processing performance of the zSeries hardware. The capacity of the mainframe is measured in millions of service units.
Customers purchase licences based on the number of processors they actually use, but those with older zSeries models pay less per processor, since their machines perform at lower levels than the newer models.
WebSphere has a tool that is designed to help customers determine how many value units they need, based on their hardware.
Marcy Nechemias, IBM's marketing manager of WebSphere for z/OS, said existing users of WebSphere for z/OS will see no change in cost. Their inventory will simply show the correct number of value units instead of "engines" or processors.
"It is just a conversion from one metric to another," said Nechemias.
Customers that buy WebSphere for z/OS for fewer than three engines and notice that the old per-processor pricing model might have worked out cheaper will be able to get started at a lower cost, she added.
IBM is trying to ensure that customers will see a lower cost for incremental growth once they start using WebSphere for z/OS. "We want to see WebSphere become a pervasive product on the mainframe platform," Nechemias said.
WebSphere 5.0 is certified for Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) 1.3 technologies and also supports more than half the J2EE 1.4 technologies that are due to be finalised later this year, according to IBM.
Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at RedMonk, said that IBM has worked hard to reduce the differences between versions of WebSphere and that the job of porting applications from smaller boxes to the mainframe should be easier with WebSphere 5.0.