Wednesday, 26 September 2007

The “dinosaur” lives on

I can still remember those distant days of the 1990s when everyone you spoke to “knew” that mainframes were doomed to extinction, and dates were confidently predicted when the last one would be turned off. These sit alongside, in terms of accuracy, predictions about how many computers a country would need in the future – I think two was the best guess, just one fewer than in my office at the moment!

Not only have the “dinosaurs” lived on, they are continuing to evolve and flourish – as witnessed by this “summer of love” for all things mainframe from IBM. They started with the latest version of CICS (V3.2), then we had the latest DB2 (9.1), and now we have the operating system itself, z/OS V1.9.

In summary, the new Release has been enhanced so that typical Unix applications, such as ERP or CRM (which are usually found on mid-range machines at the moment), can be ported to z/OS more easily.

Also there have been upgrades in terms of security and scalability. With improved network security management tools, it’s now easier to set consistent network security policies across distributed systems that communicate with the mainframe, as well as multiple instances of the operating system. Other security improvements come from enhanced PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) Services and RACF to help improve the creation, authentication, renewal, and management of digital certificates for user and device authentication directly through the mainframe. This now provides centralized management for Web-based applications. z/OS’s PKI could be used to secure a wireless network infrastructure or the end nodes of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that might be hosting point of sale or ATM communications traffic. Lastly, the z/OS Integrated Cryptographic Service Facility (ICSF) will be enhanced to include the PKCS#11 standard, which specifies an Application-Programming Interface (API) for devices that hold cryptographic information and perform cryptographic functions.

One of the biggest improvements is the ability for logical partitions to span up to 54 processors – previously they were limited (if limited is the right word here) to 32 processors.

The upgrade becomes available on the 28 September 2007.

So are mainframes going extinct and this is little more than a dead-cat-bounce? Definitely not. IBM is saying that its revenue grew by 12% in the first quarter of the year over the previous quarter and up 25% over the previous year. Remember that dinosaurs ruled the earth for 186 million years!

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