Mainframes as a Window into the Industry's Future

Link: Michael Dolan Dot Com � Recommended Reading for “Enterprisey” Types (and some for SystemTAP types).

I’ve discovered at IBM, mainframes are not a dying technology, in fact the longer I’m in IBM watching what customers are doing, the more I’m realizing that mainframes are actually a window into the future of where other platforms (x86/RISC) are heading. Sun, HP, Intel/AMD, and even the other IBM server lines watch what’s going on with mainframes and try to build those technologies/features into their products. It’s an odd thing having personally grown into the x86 culture thinking that the whole point was to get those outdated UNIX/Mainframes to x86 b/c of price points…

In which Michael Dolan begins to understand that mainframe customers actually do know what they are doing. Michael is a SystemTap guy, SystemTap being a Linux instrumentation technology which at some point in the future may compete with Solaris DTrace. His big idea here-using SystemTap across the IBM mainframe server.

by James Governor March 23, 2007
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DB2 Viper is out of the cage

Viper has arrived for the mainframe.  Now officially called DB2 9 for z/OS, this release is a very big deal as it brings XML to the party with integration of both XML and relational structured data in the same database. 

Adding support of the XML data structure - vs. forcing XML into a relational structure - allows a more dynamic use of both  types of data.  Gone are the days that a complete database design task is required to simply add a field to a record in the database.  XML allows users to easily drop such a change directly into the existing database - evolving the hierarchical information without disrupting the traditional relational data. 

One of the DB2 9 beta customers even told us: “this is XML without compromise.”  It's what they've been waiting for.

What's more - this catapults the mainframe's strength and capability as an enterprise data server for SOA.  Historically, most business-critical transaction information resides on the mainframe but the majority of SOA efforts have been on other platforms.  Now, the mainframe is emerging as an exceptional SOA platform given its performance and security characteristics.  So this is perfect timing for Viper on z.

Check out Tim Prickett Morgan's article from IT Jungle:

by Bernie Spang March 12, 2007 in Innovation
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Resistance Is Futile

There have been some recent, lively discussions within the IBM-MAIN e-mail list about various examples of "IT inertia." For example, one list member described how his company's management is reluctant to move its older COBOL code to IBM Language Environment. LE was introduced in 1991 and found widespread use starting about a decade ago. The specific company's IT management cited "risk" for trying to avoid this relatively simple and straightforward migration, never mind that this path is well worn, with thousands of successes. LE has several functional benefits, including better debugging and trace analysis, compatibility with DB2 V8 and higher, and commonality among programming languages to simplify operations and maintenance.

Several people responded that inertia has its own risks, and many of those risks bear directly on an enterprise's business results and may be beyond the IT organization's internal view. Quite simply the business may have other ideas, like buying some small servers to hide under their desks in order to get their work done while they wait, possibly forever, for IT to respond.

One of the major design objectives of the IBM mainframe is to help businesses run all code that's still valuable, thus maximizing returns on this $20 Trillion investment. This almost fanatical devotion to compatibility is quite unlike other platforms and minimizes vendor-induced churn. That said, just because you can doesn't mean you should. The mainframe is also designed to run the most cutting edge application development and hosting technologies and to support the highest rates of business change. The platform has the most sophisticated virtualization and application isolation technologies, resulting in what IBM refers to as the highest evolution in "on demand" computing.

Old together with new. Stability combined with dynamism. These are excellent characteristics for an enterprise system since each part of the business has different needs and experiences different rates of change yet must still work together to serve the market. The technology is all there, readily available, if only the IT organization understands the modern mainframe's capabilities and works closely with business interests to use them.

I am encouraged to see so many people on IBM-MAIN respond along similar lines. Both the current and new generation of mainframe professionals seem to understand intuitively this issue.

by Timothy Sipples March 11, 2007 in Innovation
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