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Will Big Blue mainframes run Windows?

z/VMs get Microsoft rumor

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An obscure mainframe software company called Mantissa Corporation bragged last summer on the IBM VM listserv - which is dedicated to virtual mainframe environments - that it was creating a product called z/VOS that would allow slices of a Windows operating system to run atop z/VM, the hypervisor-as-operating system for IBM mainframes. The product was due in the first quarter of this year, and the story of its impending release has been making the rounds.

According to a report in NetworkWorld, Mantissa's z/VOS, presumably short for Virtual Operating System, is a layer of software for VM that allows desktop and server Windows operating systems to run in emulated mode atop z/VM. Mantissa - which is based in Birmingham, Alabama, and which is a supplier of report distribution and other tools for mainframes - talked about the z/VOS product at the SHARE mainframe user conference in early March in Austin, Texas. But that was not the same thing as a product launch.

We've tried to reach the company for several days, but Mantissa has yet to respond.

While IBM and the Linux community for mainframes centered around Marist College in New York have worked to get official mainframe ports done for Linux - Red Hat and Novell officially support mainframes, if you can write a big enough check to get support - there is no native Windows port to IBM mainframes as far as I know. So, the real curiosity is how Mantissa is supporting Windows XP or Vista atop z/VM partitions.

According to the company's development blog, z/VOS includes a translation engine that "converts native x86 code to its System z equivalent." See how easy that was? As it translates equivalent results - not creating equivalent machine code, mind you - the instruction that is created by z/VOS is stored in memory so it can be accessed the next time the operating system function inside Windows running on the mainframe is asked for again.

Since Gary Dennis, Mantissa's chief executive officer and founder - and other we've called - are not answering their phones, it is a little hard to take the company seriously. But if it can indeed deliver a layer of abstraction software atop z/VM that lets Windows desktops and servers run on mainframe iron, the company should probably think about getting someone to answer the phones and maybe a salesperson or two to try to take some orders. If the x86 translation overhead is not too high, this could be a very interesting development - and one that Big Blue would seem pretty keen on supporting, not quashing. ®

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