Top IBM System z events in 2009

Everybody has what they think are the biggest System z events for the past year, usually things that touched what they specifically do with the z. Since I don’t actually get to play with a System z at work, here’s my more detached view.

The emergence of IBM System z Solution Editions was a big thing in 2009 that largely went unnoticed, mainly because Solution Editions, which are deeply discounted  bundles of System z hardware, software, middleware, and support, generally aren’t available to long-established z shops. They are intended to drive new workloads to the System z.

To date there are Solution Editions for ACI, App Dev, Chordiant, Cloud Computing, Data Warehousing, Enterprise Linux, GDPS, PeopleSoft, SAP, Security, and WebSphere. Expect to see IBM flogging System z Solution Editions in 2010. If some business unit in your organization can qualify, it is a way to get another z cheap and with a bunch of goodies thrown in too.

Another thing of interest in 2009 was the introduction of NEON’s zPrime, which enables System z shops running zIIP or zAAP specialty processors to run a wide range of workloads. The benefit is greatly lower software licensing costs. NEON reports that it can be used with all the core mainframe workhorse applications; IMS, DB2, CICS, even batch workloads. The savings on software licensing can run into millions or even tens of millions of dollars a year.

With such big money at stake IBM has been firing off threatening letters to System z shops considering zPrime. NEON responded with a lawsuit of its own. To date, the only result has been a lot of FUD. However, this is shaping up as the major System z spectator event of 2010 with seemingly everyone rooting for one side or the other and generating some heated discussions on the LinkedIn Mainframe Experts Network.

If NEON prevails or, at the least, comes to some accommodation with IBM, zPrime has the potential to greatly expand the System z market by making a System z considerably more cost-competitive with x86-based platforms.

The cloud became red hot in 2009 for IT but generally has been considered an x86/Linux phenomenon. IBM brought the z into cloud computing in a big way in 2009  and will continue to push z into the cloud in 2010. It mainly has been an IBM show so far with the company putting its own BI in the cloud. Let’s watch to see if the z Solution Edition for cloud attracts many takers.

On the other hand,  efforts to expand the workloads on z in 2009 have been slow at best outside of IBM itself. Linux on z has been the bright spot. Otherwise, there are only a handful of BI users for Cognos 8 for Linux on z. Novell hasn’t reported the names of any SUSE Linux/Mono on z users running .NET applications so, apparently, not much is happening there yet either.

Similarly, Mantissa’s Windows on z initiative, z/VOS, promises to eventually allow companies to run hundreds of virtualized Windows applications on the System z under z/VM. A demo scheduled at SHARE early in the year failed to materialize. From comments in various discussion groups it sounds like a cumbersome kludge. The company’s own z/VOS blog has been quiet on the subject for months but apparently the company continues to plug away at it.

Finally, OpenSolaris on z, after getting thrown off track by Oracle’s acquisition of Sun and IBM’s punting on the whole effort (which was covered here in July) hopefully will get going in 2010. A couple of System z shops expressed interest to me in it. It may have to wait until Solaris 11, when the SPARC and OpenSolaris code bases are expected to merge.

Best wishes for 2010. This blog will be quiet until after the New Year holiday.

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