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IBM aims to leverage social networking by building an online meeting place for users of its System z mainframes. It says the Web-based portal, called Destination z, gives customers a place to discuss and debate mainframe usage, exchange ideas and seek technical advice.

The company also announced software to improve System z's security, compliance and consolidation capabilities.

A cynic might wonder if Destination z is mostly an attempt to off-load the business of support onto other customers. However, it is often true that - if the social side is done right - the best help comes from fellow users who've been through the same problems.

The developments are part of IBM's five-year plan to invest $100m in making mainframes easier to use. Big Blue hopes that this will persuade small and medium-sized companies that System z is a better choice than distributed systems. It said that several customers are already on board to Destination z, including Scottish Power.

As well as providing a meeting place for customers, system integrators and software developers to share ideas and seek advice, Destination z will link to IBM sales and technical resources such as case histories and mainframe migration tools. It will also provide space for IBM business partners to "drive business development and provide a broad spectrum of technical resources," the company said.

The new System z software includes security and compliance technology from IBM's acquisition of Consul last year, and a tool called IT Value-Based Analytics, which IBM claimed could help relate IT resource usage back to departments and compare an application's on x86 servers with its performance on the mainframe.

IBM has also enhanced the mainframe's z/VM virtualisation software to support ten times more virtual memory and up to 256GB of physical memory. This will enable a single mainframe to run more virtual servers, and in particular, more memory-intensive workloads such as database applications, the company said. ®

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