If I read about the exploits of James Bond or Batman, or some other fictional hero, then I am usually amused and entertained by what I read. If I hear about the exploits of a politician, I am, perhaps, less enthralled – wondering what devious deeds have occurred. So the noun, “exploits”, carries a slightly more positive mixed message. But what about the words exploitation?
Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploitation) informs us that the term “exploitation” has two distinct meanings:
1 The act of using something for any purpose. In this case, exploit is a synonym for use.
2 The act of using something in an unjust or cruel manner.
So if the word has two meaning, what sort of problems are we, the mainframing public, going to have when we read two different opinions about a piece of software that exploits a piece of hardware? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Yet again, I’m talking about that software bombshell called zPrime from NEON Enterprise Software. Those of you who know exactly what the software does, look away now! For everyone else, here’s a very brief overview. IBM builds mainframes and charges users by how much processing they do using the General Purpose Processor. In addition, IBM has specialty processors, which can be used for Linux, DB2, and Java. These are paid for, but then users save each month because they are not processing these applications using the GPPs. So, IBM gets its regular income from CICS, IMS, batch, TSO/ISPF, etc, etc, which do use GPPs. But what if, you could run CICS, etc in a specialty processor? Wouldn’t that save lots of dosh each month? That’s what NEON must have thought because that’s exactly what their zPrime software allows to happen. Ordinary mainframers save money – even after paying NEON for the software – but IBM loses anticipated revenue. Mainframes become more affordable, but still IBM loses revenue. What happens next?
I think that IBM is in a very difficult position with this. Obviously they can do sabre rattling about breaking licence agreements with current customers, and try to maintain the flow of revenue each month, but, if the price of running a mainframe was significantly lower, wouldn’t that attract more people to buy mainframes? Those mid-sized companies that are wresting with virtualizing their servers and solving problems that mainframers take for granted as being standard practice, might well view a mainframe as a very competitively-priced opportunity. IBM must look to the future and see this as an opportunity. And I wonder whether this is contributing to their kind of half-hearted response.
Admittedly, IBM has other considerations. For example, the more it blusters against zPrime, the more oxygen of publicity it gives it – and, as a consequence, the more sites that are likely to try it. Also, if IBM were to somehow ban the use of zPrime on its computers, that could lead to a lengthy court case. So, at the moment, IBM is simply telling customers to check their contracts to ensure they’re not breaking them by using zPrime. This seems little more than a non-specific scare tactic. After all, no contracts were written with zPrime even dreamed about. People signing new contracts might want their legal teams to check whether there’s anything in it about zPrime, but I haven’t heard of such sentences being included.
If you want my advice, and you didn’t ask, I’d get on the phone to NEON and get them to try it at my site. For NEON, exploiting specialty processors is a good thing. For IBM it isn’t. That’s their two different views of exploitation of specialty processors.
As a tailpiece of advice – while I’m in the mood – if I ran IBM, I’d be looking to buy NEON about now.