zPrime vs. IBM System z Round Two

The saga continues. Last week NEON announced the latest release of zPrime, v 2.1. You can find the press release here. Many System z ISVs hate NEON, but you have to at least admire NEON’s bravado.  Engaged in lawsuit and counter lawsuit with IBM over zPrime, they continue to invest in resources to enhance the product.

DancingDinosaur has covered zPrime before.  In general, this blog welcomes almost anything that lowers the cost of mainframe computing or makes it accessible to more organizations and more workloads. It welcomes specialty processors and welcomes zPrime.

NEON’s zPrime lets a System z shop offload many z/OS applications to zIIP and zAAP specialty processors, including applications IBM has not authorized for offloading to the specialty processors. The reason mainframe shops want to do this is simple: they save a ton of money on software licensing due to a loophole IBM created when it introduced the specialty processors initially.

This wasn’t an oversight by IBM. The very idea of the specialty processors came about as a way for IBM to lower the cost of mainframe computing, especially for Java and database applications, to compete more effectively with low cost x86-based systems, which were winning those workloads left and right even at mainframe shops. It allowed IBM to effectively cut prices without actually cutting prices Wal-Mart style.

IBM was right; the specialty processors, especially the Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL), have proven to be a blessing when it comes to saving workloads and expanding workloads on the System z. I have written case studies where the clincher for the System z decision was the availability of specialty processors.

Yet, IBM apparently hadn’t understood an old computer industry truism: that if you build it, they not only will come but very shortly begin to use it in ways you never intended. ISVs told me that they considered doing what NEON did with zPrime and even figured out how to do it. They didn’t pursue it, however, out of fear of IBM’s reaction. Give NEON credit for guts if nothing else.

According to NEON,  zPrime 2.1 reduces mainframe costs further by expanding the types of workloads that can be offloaded to zIIPs and zAAPs (z Integrated Information Processors and z Application Assist Processors). Now, according to the company, up to 90 percent of CICS workloads can be offloaded and virtually all DB2 workloads are enabled without any additional hardware or software changes to run on zIIPs and zAAPs. In addition, mainframe admins can ensure maximum utilization of specialty processors and fine-tune utilization to match specific needs with even less intervention than previous zPrime versions.

Overall, NEON reports zPrime 2.1 is much easier to install, ready to run in less than 30 minutes — with no JCL changes, system exits, or restarts of any z/OS subsystem, and it no longer uses z/OS exits for workload enablement. zPrime 2.1 also is fully compatible with zPrime 1.2.

Meanwhile the legal battle between IBM and NEON plods on at a typical legal pace.  In June Federal Judge James R. Nowlin in the Western District of Texas in Austin entered an order setting jury selection for March 12, 2012 in Neon Enterprise Software, LLC v. International Business Machines Corporation (case number 1:09-cv-00896-JRN). That’s almost two years from now.

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