Even as IBM battles NEON in court in an effort to squelch zPrime, another upstart is emerging on the mainframe scene, TmaxSoft, which is about to introduce a System z version of OpenFrame, promises to duplicate key z/OS functionality, such as CICS, VSAM, RACF, JES and more on a low cost IFL.
TmaxSoft, in effect, offers another way to reduce the cost of System z computing by avoiding mainframe software licensing costs. Instead you run these traditional mainframe applications on an IFL. And as with zPrime, big, big savings here. eWeek reported it here, but it didn’t seem to get picked up much.
As the Register, a UK publication, noted in January, IBM can’t let this get out of hand: “With mainframe revenues off sharply and likely to be so until the System z11 mainframes ship much later this year, IBM can ill afford to look the other way as Neon Software peddles its zPrime tool for offloading mainframe workloads to much cheaper specialty engines.” So it sued Neon, which had already launched its own pre-emptive legal strike at the end of 2009.
TmaxSoft hopes to avoid a similar confrontation with IBM. “We’re a different things. NEON encouraged users to violate their license [according to IBM]. They couldn’t come after us with the same claim. Our customers take their own intellectual property and run it on OpenFrame. There is no IBM software involved,” says John Plato, the TmaxSoft marketing person in the US.
Still, TmaxSoft offers the opportunity for what Plato describes as workload shifting. OpenFrame duplicates the functionality of core z/OS systems. replacing the legacy CICS, IMS, JES, VSAM mainframe engines with OpenFrame to run the customer’s applications originally written in legacy code like COBOL and PL1 on Linux, but do so without having to make changes to the source code or business logic. It also handles batch applications.
This allows companies to move those applications to the IFL, which reduces the licensing costs without having to give up the benefits of the mainframe, just the expense of running software under z/OS. The result is the same as with zPrime; the customer runs what had been a z/OS application on an IFL, at the substantially lower IFL licensing costs.
TmaxSoft, in effect, emulates those core z/OS functions in OpenFrame although it doesn’t call it emulation. And the performance is as good as the real thing based on a test of a 7500 MIPS workload, according to Plato. The product is ready for production use, he reports; the company is just looking to sign up some pilot projects.
Whether TmaxSoft avoids IBM’s legal wrath remains to be seen. As the Register reported, IBM’s charge is that NEON is hijacking IBM intellectual property. TmaxSoft is hoping to avoid that by inserting its own intellectual property instead. The lawyers will have to figure this one out.
The real point, however, is that mainframe computing is perceived as simply too expensive, especially with the availability of powerful, less costly platforms that promise to handle mainframe-class workloads without the mainframe overhead. Whether they actually deliver on that promise is another question. But one thing is certain: upstarts like NEON and TmaxSoft will keep coming as long as there is a demand for lower cost mainframe computing.