Support Grows for the Mainframe

Arthur Cole

We've been reporting on the resurgence of the mainframe for some time now, driven primarily by IBM's commitment to the platform despite its size and cost in the age of clustered servers and blade technology. Now, it looks like the rest of the industry is catching on, with third-party support coming in from storage, networking and application vendors.


Part of the renewed interest in the mainframe is its ability to handle the massive business-intelligence platforms that are now seen as crucial components of the IT infrastructure, according to Ovum's Madan Sheina. Not only is it easier to scale up a mainframe to accommodate huge volumes of data, but it provides the most robust platform for what is now considered a mission-critical application.


Of course, larger volumes of data require more storage, and it helps to have storage and server work together as smoothly as possible. After all, it does no good to invest in lightning-fast processing if it can't store and retrieve critical data in a timely fashion.


IBM's System z mainframe picked up critical support this week from Hitachi Data Systems, which recently completed interoperability testing for the Universal Storage Platform V and VM systems. The testing established Hitachi's support for Enterprise System Connection (ESCON), Fiber Connection (FICON) and Fibre Channel Protocol (FCP) with the z10 and z9 Enterprise Class systems, as well as the zSeries 800, 900 and 990 systems running z/OS, z/Vm 5.3. z/VSE 4.1, as well as Linux on System z SLES 9 and 10.


For archival storage, Bus-Tech has introduced the Mainframe Data Library (MDL) model 6000, aimed at IBM and compatible mainframes. The system offers throughput of 1 GBps using 4 Gb FICON support and 1,536 emulated tape transports. The MDL-6000 can be configured with three to six emulation nodes, each supporting two FICON or three ESCON channel adapters capable of emulating 256 mainframe tape drives. The company also released a new version (6.0) of the Virtuent software.


Third-party mainframe management is also turning up. CA recently unveiled a line of management systems for the z/OS, z/VSE and z/VM platforms with improved application dump safeguards, heightened control of DB2 environments and IPv6 support for remote printing capability.


Increased industry support is the strongest indication yet that the re-emergence of the mainframe is not just a blip on an otherwise slow and steady demise. They may not suit every environment, but there is a large enough need out there to keep big iron around for quite a while.

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