With the focus of the mainframe community since July on the new zEnterprise, z196, zBX it is easy to forget that the NEON zPrime controversy has been quietly perking along. Tech Target, however, reminded us last week. Not that anything is imminent; the lawsuits, if they get to court, aren’t scheduled until June 2011.
This is a long-running soap opera. Will IBM and NEON settle? Will IBM simply buy NEON and bury the technology? Will IBM just bleed NEON to death with legal expenses? DancingDinosaur has been covering this since November 2009.
zPrime enables mainframe shops to shift workloads from central processor MIPS to zIIP and zAAP specialty engines, substantially reducing costs in the process. Mainframe ISVs told DancingDinosaur that they understand how zPrime works and could do it themselves if they dared to risk IBM’s wrath. Instead, they will wait to see how this shakes out. If the trick is that transparent, you can bet others will try it too, no matter what happens with NEON.
Some thought the arrival of the z196 would signal the end of zPrime. The z196 has been redesigned and re-architected and optimized top to bottom. The z196 zIIP and zAAP specialty engines are more powerful in terms of MIPS than those available for the previous System z models. Would zPrime even work?
Apparently it does. NEON currently is offering a free zPrime trial, and it insists zPrime works with the z196 and has the users to prove it. This past spring the company offered a deal on zPrime for IMS for a buck a year for two years. All you have to do is put the product into production by the end of this month. A handful of mainframe shops reportedly have taken NEON up on the $1 offer.
As for zPrime on the z196, NEON tells DancingDinosaur that a US-based zPrime customer, one with a significant z/OS install, recently upgraded its two large z10 EC systems to two large z196 mainframes. zPrime has been in production for more than one month at this company, which is using zPrime to increase its utilization of both z196 zIIPs and zAAPs for a variety of typical online and batch z/OS workloads including DB2 and CICS. Would be nice to speak with that customer, even off the record, to verify the report, but that conversation hasn’t been arranged yet.
One of the frustrating things about zPrime is that users are skittish about publicity. They don’t want to attract IBM’s wrath any more than ISVs do. Can you blame them? IBM is a master at sowing FUD.
Others suggest that the use of x86 blades with the z196 in the zBX extension cabinet would eliminate the need for zIIPs and zAAPs altogether. IBM clearly doesn’t believe that, and another z196 customer that makes extensive use of zIIP and zAAP engines agrees. It has deployed zIIP and zAAP engines with the z196 and rejected the use of IBM x86 blades for a variety of reasons.
DancingDinosaur isn’t qualified to comment on the merits of the legal issues around zPrime, but it supports efforts to lower the cost of mainframe computing. Some of those efforts come from IBM itself, like the z Solution Editions program. Others come from outside firms like NEON. The bottom line: anything that lowers the cost of mainframe computing is good for the future of the mainframe and the mainframe community.