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New Apps Give New Life to Mainframes

IBM support for Linux applications leading trend

October 21, 2002 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Far from being relegated to the scrap yard, mainframe systems are increasingly being used to run new application workloads, according to a recent report from Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

Driving the trend are the economic pressure to make better use of existing IT investments and factors such as the availability of lower-cost systems and the increasing support for Linux applications and newer workloads from IBM, according to Giga.

More than 70% of the mainframe MIPS shipped so far this year are in support of new workloads such as Linux, IBM's WebSphere, BEA Systems Inc.'s WebLogic, and enterprise resource planning software from companies such as PeopleSoft Inc. and SAP AG, according to Giga.

Much of the Linux activity has stemmed from IBM's growing support for the open-source operating system on its mainframes. According to Giga, there are currently at least 500 mainframe Linux installations, with around 150 more in production status. Going forward, expect to see more companies using zSeries Linux environments for application serving combined with back-end database serving residing in a zSeries z/OS environment, Giga predicted. The launch earlier this year of on SuSE Linux AG's 64-bit Linux for zSeries is one of the first steps toward enabling this, the report said.

Meanwhile IBM's lower-cost z800 mainframes, which launched last year, have been successful in snagging Java 2 Enterprise Edition-based workloads such as WebSphere and WebLogic.

The trend isn't surprising, said Mike Kahn, an analyst at The Clipper Group Inc. in Wellesley, Mass.

"There are certain costs-of-ownership benefits in running these new workloads if you already have a large mainframe environment," Kahn said.

And by its pricing on hardware and software configurations, IBM has also made it very attractive to run new workloads, he added.

"IBM is attempting to keep applications from migrating away from the mainframe by allowing users to extend them to new areas," Kahn said.

While a lot of the new mainframe MIPS are being purchased by users who are deploying new applications, it would be a mistake to assume that all of the additional capacity is being devoted entirely to these workloads, said David Floyer, an analyst at IT Centrix Inc., a consultancy in Framingham, Mass.

"I would draw a slightly more cautious conclusion," Floyer said. "The vast majority of MIPS are still doing core business work, and that is going to continue being the case."

Boosts for Big Iron

Key drivers for mainframe growth:

Current economy forces companies to revisit total cost of ownership models that favor more centralized, cost-efficient computing structures

IBM's introduction of the z800, which offers a competitive alternative to Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. servers for those looking to upgrade from earlier CMOS mainframes

Enhanced Linux support

Performance enhancements on mainframe J2EE-based products such as WebSphere and WebLogic

Source: Giga Information Group Inc., Cambridge, Mass.

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