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Neon Software sells cut-down zPrime for IMS

Accelerate flatfile mainframe databases for a buck

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IBM's System z11 mainframes are just around the corner, and Neon Software, the maker of the zPrime tool for offloading work from expensive to cheap engines on Big Blue's mainframes, has to do something to get the attention of mainframers.

How does $1 for a license for tweaked zPrime tool that lets it accelerate IMS flatfile databases on mainframes sound?

That is bound to get the attention of more than a few mainframe shops working on tight budgets and who are willing to use a tool that is at the center of one of several lawsuits relating to IBM's mainframes.

The zPrime for IMS tool is a derivative of zPrime 2.1, which was announced in mid-June. It is not the full version of the software, which can offload CICS, DB2, IMS, Java, and XML processing from regular mainframe engines running z/OS to the so-called specialty engines inside of mainframes.

These specialty engines, known as the System z Application Assist Processor (zAAP, for offloading Java and XML workloads) and the System z Integrated Information Processor (zIIP, for accelerating DB2 databases), are based on the same physical chip cores that run z/OS, but IBM's microcode turns them into co-processors for regular mainframe engines. Oh, and they cost a quarter or less than the price of a regular mainframe engine and do not incur IBM system software metered software charges, so if you can offload work to them, you can save big bucks.

The crux of the issue - and why zPrime is potentially useful to mainframe shops and harmful to IBM - is that it enables a much larger percentage of the z/OS workloads to be move to zIIPs and zAAPs than IBM's marketing plan for specialty engines anticipated. If more than 90 per cent of the work of a mainframe processor can be offloaded to a specialty engine, as Neon Software claims zPrime 2.1 can do, then which is the processor and which is the co-processor?

IBM's Information Management System, or IMS, database is a hierarchical database that is exhaustively used in conjunction with the CICS transaction monitoring system to blaze through online transaction processing on IBM's big iron. It was created by IBM in part to keep track of the manufacturing parts used in the NASA's Apollo program to get men to the moon. It is a big money maker for Big Blue, since governments and companies the world over use it to drive their transactions (as well as the relational DB2 database on mainframes).

Neon Software is being a smart-alek by offering an IMS-only version of zPrime for $1, and it is a shameless means of growing what is still a pretty small installed base for the zPrime product. As of June, the company said that it had eight non-paying customers using zPrime 2.1 in production and "double digits" of paying customers for all of its products, against an installed base of between 6,000 and 7,000 unique mainframe sites in the world. Neon Software had 14 paying customers through last fall, but is unwilling to be specific about how many it has now - except to say it has not lost one paying customer yet.

To get the $1 annual license to zPrime for IMS, customers have to make a two-year commitment to license the product - that's a whole $2 - and install the software and put it into production by December 31.

Wouldn't it be funny if someone sold a tool that tweaked zPrime so it would then do the full gamut of mainframe offloading, as the full zPrime 2.1 does? There would be a certain kind of symmetry to that. ®

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