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IBM to release 64-bit mainframe operating system


(IDG) -- IBM Monday announced plans to release a promised 64-bit version of its mainframe operating system later this week -- a move that users and analysts said should provide a crucial foundation for building the kind of usage-based software licensing models that companies have been demanding for years.

The new z/OS operating system was originally detailed last fall, when IBM introduced its z900 line of mainframes supporting up to 16 64-bit processors. The software is IBM's first 64-bit mainframe operating system and includes several new capabilities designed to make it easier and less expensive for users to run big-iron boxes. INFOCENTER
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The most significant of these features from a user perspective is the operating system's support for what is known as license manager technology, which can monitor and measure software usage. IBM is expected to ship the license manager in the fall and will then be able to charge users for its mainframe software based on their actual use, in much the same way that utilities charge their customers.

Mainframe users have long said that kind of a pricing model would be far more equitable than current capacity-based licenses that are based on a system's processing power. Under those approaches, users pay more for software as mainframes get larger, irrespective of their actual use of the products.

"The license manager facility will allow users to substantially reduce the costs of running IBM and third-party [mainframe] software," said Chuck Bram, a principal consultant at eFunds Inc., a Milwaukee-based online financial services firm that uses IBM's mainframes.

The z/OS release should help tremendously in addressing the software pricing complaints of mainframe users, agreed Ed Cowger, an analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc.'s Datapro unit. But a lot depends on whether rival software vendors such as Computer Associates International Inc. and BMC Software Inc. embrace usage-based pricing, he added.

Traditionally, Cowger said, mainframe software vendors have dragged their feet when it comes to implementing new pricing models. "Right now, the jury is out on whether they will support it on the z/OS," he said.

Key among the other features available with z/OS is the Intelligent Resource Director, which makes the z900 mainframes capable of dynamically shifting processor power within a single system or across a network to accommodate fluctuations in workloads. Using that capability, users can instruct the operating system to assign additional resources such as processors and memory to different applications as needed.

The z/OS software, which is due to become available this Friday, also comes with new security enhancements. For instance, the operating system is IBM's first that will let users define and build their own cryptography functions. IBM said it also includes new Web-based wizard technology for use in installing and configuring the operating system.

A follow-on release is due out later this year with additional features, including Linux support for the Intelligent Resource Director and the ability to use server memory to transmit information across partitions that users have set up within a z900 machine. The latter capability should reduce network latency and increase data availability, IBM said.

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