IBM plan aims to make life easier for mainframe users

IBM is investing £55m over five years to make its System z mainframes easier to program, manage and administer.

IBM is investing £55m over five years to make its System z mainframes easier to program, manage and administer.

The supplier plans to develop new technology to help administrators and programmers use IBM ­System z mainframes, and to automate the development and deployment of mainframe applications.

Mark Lillycrop, chief executive at analyst firm Arcati, said the investment would be good news for users, as mainframe skills have been in dec­line as a result of a generation of mainframe experts retiring.

"The one concern that remains in the minds of company directors looking to steer their IT strategy is that the mainframe legacy environment that has built up over the past 20 years is an increasingly difficult thing to manage because so many of their mainframe experts are nearing retirement. It has been difficult to encourage young people to replace them," he said.

As part of IBM's mainframe modernisation initiative, it will develop automated configuration checking to make it easier for administrators and programmers to predict and avoid technical problems.

It intends to update both the mainframe architecture and its user interface, which includes network configuration, systems management and datacentre hardware configuration tools.

IBM will also improve software asset management technologies, and will introduce visual tools to help mainframe novices.

The company has been trying to boost mainframe adoption, particularly among small and medium sized businesses, launching lower-cost mainframes that run Linux. Earlier this year it released the System z9 Business Class mainframe, priced from about £53,000, targeted at health care and retail users and other mid-sized companies.

Jim Stallings, general manager for IBM System z, said, "From a strategic perspective, a focus on mainframe simplification increases the attractiveness of the platform to a broader swath of IT professionals."

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