October 4, 2006 3:19 PM PDT

IBM aims for user-friendly mainframes

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IBM will spend $100 million over the next five years to make its mainframe line easier to administer and program, the company said Wednesday.

IBM's decades-old mainframe lineage, called System z and running the z/OS operating system, has grown increasingly distant from mainstream computing with the rise of computers running Unix, Windows and Linux. Big Blue is trying to change that with a modern user interface, visual programming tools and other developments, the company said.

The effort is the latest in a series of moves IBM has made to restore the mainframe's relevance. IBM has made sure mainframes can run Linux and Java and can attach to ordinary computer networks. The company is also working on performance-boosting accelerators for specific software and recently introduced its lowest-priced model, with a comparatively inexpensive starting price of $100,000.

IBM has introduced several usability improvements with its new mainframe operating system, z/OS V1R8, IBM said, and will focus its future work on four specific areas:

• A modern user interface to let current and future administrators configure hardware.

• New visual programming tools so novices can learn mainframe programming quickly.

• Better tools to govern software costs and to simplify software acquisition. Recurring software payments are a major contributor to the expense of mainframe operations.

• Automated checking of configurations to let administrators and programmers predict and avoid technical problems.

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mainframe, IBM z/OS, IBM Corp., programming tool, payment


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Looks like somebody at IBM has seen daylight after years of living in a Cave..i guess :).

Even though mainframes are extremely reliable and work flawlessly when presented with heavy loads..user interface has always been a ice which is relatively difficult to break.
Posted by reachdnr (3 comments )
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Having spent over 25 years installing, maintaining, and programming for MVS (the "original open source OS"--before OCO, that is), I couldn't agree with your statement less. If you haven't used ISPF, then you don't know what "easy" is.

Yeah, there's some room for improvement... if you aren't a sysprog. It ain't Windows, after all... thank God. The only real "problem" with MVS is that it's EBCDIC instead of ASCII, which makes interoperability a bit of a hassle at times. Oh, well, let's go ahead and "improve" it so even clerks can administer it; who needs sysadmins?
(</rant> :-))
Posted by GlennAl (25 comments )
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So much for web services in a theoretical sense. Why would IBM want novice users to program for a specific operating system? Oh yeah, I forgot... mainframes have always been and will always be about proprietary lockin. The more things change...
Posted by scdecade (329 comments )
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ALL operating systems are propriety. Windows requires specific hardware compatibility same as z/OS and i5/OS.
Posted by rtwigg (11 comments )
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Vendor lock
Let's face the facts. If you are looking at utilizing a mainframe, you have a very specific reason to do so and you will make your choice based on your need, not whether you are afraid of vendor lock in. The fact that IBM is taking time to make them more user friendly is a huge step in the right direction. There are plenty of great system administrators out there that are uncomfortable outside the world of GUI interfaces. I know, sad to say. Making a more friendly interfact to common tasks opens the door to a much larger market.
Posted by gjungels (1 comment )
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