Big Blue retreads its mainframes

IBM rejigs its mainframes for e-commerce.

As other PC server makers race to position their new systems as the best commerce platforms, IBM is attempting to capitalise on its mainframes' wealth and depth of features to position System/390 as the commerce platform of record.

"Everyone is trying to be where the mainframe has always been. So, the attributes of the past 10, 20, even 30 years around our mainframes never meant more than they do today," says Doug Balog, IBM's director of S/390 software.

To wit, IBM is playing up the transaction-processing, security and VPN capabilities of its latest release of its mainframe operating system, OS/390 Release 2, version 8. The new release is slated to begin shipping to customers by the end of September, say IBM officials.

IBM has coined the term "e-transaction processing" to highlight the e-business infrastructure enabled by the latest OS/390 release. What differentiates e-TP from plain-old TP? Says Balog: With e-commerce, "there are differences in predictability. You can have things like 10 times or more spikes in traffic. There also are a whole set of security considerations, all the way down to the clients. And there are a number of transactions that a single session will spawn" that's different for e-commerce solutions.

New to version 8 are various systems- and network-level security enhancements; simplified management of digital certificate keys; a minor update to the Java virtual machine that's part of OS/390; upgrades to the TCP/IP and LDAP networking fabric; and group printing improvements. To help customers and resellers take advantage of the latest update, IBM has established an OS/390 e-business integration test, whose mission is "to continue to fine-tune OS/390 as the premiere e-business platform and to help ensure that customers can successfully implement e-transaction processing with OS/390 and related products".

IBM also is laying more e-commerce groundwork for its next mainframe OS update, Version 2 Release 9, due next spring. The company is promising further enhancements to its native file and print serving engine for Windows clients; text search support for XML documents and unicode; and additional Unix System Services functions.

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