Sunday, 17 January 2010

2009 – a review

2009 was quite an interesting year considering that we entered it in the middle of the worst financial crisis for x number of years – I’ll leave you to fill in a value for ‘x’, but whatever number you put, things were bad.

So, what exciting things did happen? Well, IBM continued with the inexorable progress of its mainframe software. We saw IMS V11 actually being GAed – it had been available as a beta for a while. The new version boasted even better SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture) and Java features and a host of other useful enhancements for IMS users.

The people at Hursley gave us CICS/TS Version 4.1. This again had robust all-round improvements plus featured enhancements in the areas of Web 2.0, dashboards, and business event publishing.

DB2 didn’t exactly manage a new release proper, but did beta Version 10. Again, this is designed to improve performance and save MIPS – which being chargeable is a good thing to have. Obviously someone at IBM owns a Mac rather than a PC because they are calling it DB2 X (like Mac OS X).

Perhaps the most important release is the new version of the operating system. The cool kids are now using z/OS V1.11. Like all good operating system upgrades it is backwards compatible and improves performance. There were also some enhancements to autonomic computing – the software answer to the ageing IT population – which means the software will identify potential faults before they occur and take steps to prevent them. Or if it’s too late for that, they will recover from them – and all without human intervention.

Away from the mainframe, perhaps the biggest news was Oracle buying Sun Microsystems. Reports are coming in of potential massive job cuts at Sun. Interestingly, Michael ‘Monty’ Widenius, co-creator of MySQL (which Sun owns), ran a Web campaign called “Save MySQL” to convince European regulators to prevent Oracle’s buyout.

The other big news for mainframers was NEON Enterprise Software’s announcement of zPrime. Why the excitement? Well, IBM and many independent software vendors (ISVs) generally charge users for software by the amount of General Purpose Processor (GPP) capacity they use. IBM also sells specialty processors, which are available for workloads like Linux, Java (think WebSphere), and DB2. For a typical mainframe site, processing work in a specialty processor saves money because it is not using the chargeable GPPs – and there’s an added benefit that it can save an organization money by putting off the need for an expensive processor upgrade. The controversial zPrime software, according to NEON, allows users to run up to 50% of their workload on specialty processors. So in effect a zIIP doesn’t just run DB2 work, it can also run IMS, CICS, TSO/ISPF, batch, etc, etc. On the plus side this offers the strong possibility of bringing down the total cost of ownership of the mainframe, which is always good for users (though there is some debate about the achievable level of savings). On the negative side, IBM and ISVs may opt to limit the use of zPrime through licence changes (particularly for those users who are tied into Enterprise Licence Agreements) if specialty processors are used for workloads other than those intended. IBM has already issued letters about customers violating agreements if they use zPrime, and NEON has sued IBM. It will be interesting to see what happens in 2010.

Personally, 2009 was an interesting year. I became an IBM Data Champion in an IBM-sponsored initiative that was rebadged as IBM Information Champions. I was also a finalist in the Computer Weekly blog awards in the category of Individual IT professional male. In addition, I qualified as a clinical hypnotherapist and psychotherapist and added loads of letters after my name. (If you want to know, look at

Looking forward to 2010, the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook will be available shortly with its annual mainframe user survey; the Virtual IMS Connection user group has a full calendar of events for IMS users; you can now follow my IT-related tweets on Twitter (, and become a fan of iTech-Ed on Facebook. It will be interesting to see what else happens.

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