For the better part of three decades now, IBM's mainframes -- often referred to as big iron -- have been coming under assault from smaller iron: minicomputers and servers that may not by themselves have the sheer horsepower to keep up with a mainframe but can often get the job done, especially when a bunch of them work together on the same tasks (a technique known as scaling out). The newer smaller, and always improving technology has kept IBM on its toes in terms of the sorts of work mainframes can do, how mainframes are packaged, and what they cost to use.
According to James Governor, principal analyst at IT research outfit Redmonk, IBM is once again evolving. This time, it has repriced it's mainframes for those customers running Java applications. Wrote Governor,
Java workloads can be consolidated onto zAAP, without paying mainframe fees for the capacity, basically eliminating a major problem for mainframes, which is that the traditional licensing model is based on total system capacity (measured in MIPs). But with IBM's offload processors "modern" workloads- Java, Linux and in some cases relational data - are not counted towards the MIPs total, but are licensed separately.
The message from Big Blue is that with its mainframes, not only are they big enough for you to think about consolidating your Java apps onto one system, the brute force of a mainframe may also make them run faster and, because of the way IBM is pricing its mainframes for Java-based application, it may very well end up being easier on the budget too. The post caught my eye because of a podcast interview I did last week with executives from Mainsoft and Azul Systems.
With it's Network Attached Processor for scaling Java apps up, Azul in particular is also focused on the same sort of problem that IBM seems to be going after: consolidating Java apps, making them run faster, and reducing cost. One difference is that IBM makes Java apps faster with brute force. Azul does the same but has also tweaked Java under the hood much the same way BEA has tweaked its JRockit Java Virtual Machine to make it more efficient. Azul is also considering building the same sort of solution for .Net which left me wondering if why companies may be focusing on Java first and then turning their attention to .Net. Is it a sign that Java has more marketplace traction? According to Governor, probably not.
In my podcast interview of him (available as an MP3 that can be downloaded or, if you’re already subscribed to ZDNet’s IT Matters series of audio podcasts, it will show up on your system or MP3 player automatically -- see ZDNet’s podcasts: How to tune in), Governor sees many third parties focused on making Java or .Net more efficient as having picked their battles (unlike Azul which appears to be going for both). In the interview, we cover IBM's Java mainframe strategy, we talk about the larger .Net vs. Java picture, and Governor predicts that Sun will be making a relatively big open source announcement at JavaOne coming up next week.