New IBM mainframe won't end battle for Big Iron's soul

New IBM mainframe won't end battle for Big Iron's soul

First System z update since 2005 due this month; fight against servers continues

Talking SOA in Florida

SOA will be a major topic at Share's annual conference this month in Orlando, said James Michael, the user group's treasurer and an IT manager at a university that he asked not be named. Michael said he himself would like to explore the idea of sharing code used in SOA development.

"Could we drive out some of the development cost of building SOA environments by standardizing on some of the objects that we use?" Michael asked. He's not sure if that is possible, but he hopes to find out from other conference attendees. That kind of knowledge sharing was how the user group got its name decades ago, he pointed out.

Although Michael sees distributed systems improving, he believes that the mainframe's total cost of ownership is less when support costs and technological advantages, particularly in virtualization and security, are considered.

But IBM also has to continue reduce the "sticker shock" of new systems, said Michael, who pointed to the company's specialty, workload-specific processors, as one means for doing so.

One big difference between the mainframe and distributed server worlds is cultural, said Michael. Server administrators are more likely to reboot if there's an issue, while mainframe operators, if asked to reboot, will likely reject the idea and focus on first understanding the problem and finding an alternative means to address it, he said.

Some of this push for changes on the mainframe to improve its use is coming from customers such as Hewitt's Walter. He wanted to make it easier to install SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on the mainframe and last year outlined a suggestion on a mailing list devoted to mainframe discussion for simplifying the installation.

Walter said his idea was picked up at IBM, which worked with SUSE Linux owner Novell Inc. to develop the tool. "The whole point of this new tool is to be able to install [SUSE] Linux quickly and without any experience," he said.

But Walter's main defense of the mainframe isn't pegged on that tool but on the system's overall reliability. "It doesn't fail," he said.

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