The Beginning of a New Mainframe Era

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As mainframe specialists gather at the start of the SHARE conference in Orlando this week, one of the more striking things about this conference will be how much distributed computing systems are part of the theme of the event.

With the launch of the zEnterprise mainframe platform, IBM has been advocating the convergence of mainframe and distributed computing platforms in a way that tightly couples a mainframe to Power Series servers running AIX or Linux or X-Series servers running Linux or Windows. The company is currently shipping the Power Series servers and X-Series servers running Linux in the form of zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension (zBX), while the X-Series implementation of a zBX that runs Windows is expected to ship later this year.

SHARE president Janet Sun says that with the advent of cloud computing, IT organizations that have invested heavily in distributed computing platforms have become a lot more interested in reliability and security. Those are two of the primary attributes of the mainframe, so the rise of cloud computing creates a unique opportunity to initiate the convergence of mainframe and distributed computing platforms.

From IBM's perspective, the convergence, as part of a larger Smarter Computing initiative, takes the form of application workloads running on the specific platforms that they have been optimized for, all of which are managed as part of a zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager that IBM developed for the zEnterprise environment.

How long all this convergence might take, however, is the great unanswered question. There are a lot of cultural and historical issues that need to be overcome within the IT community before much progress can be made. But in the short term, Sun is betting we'll see more of the convergence within IT organizations that have mainframes, before we see sites that are predominantly based on distributed computing starting to once again appreciate the value of the mainframe. Of course, now that mainframes are priced starting at around $75,000, that too may happen sooner than anyone thinks.