Neon updates zPrime mainframe accelerator

IBM's lawyers combing source code

Neon says that zPrime 2.1 is also easier to install than the prior releases, and can be up and running in 30 minutes with no JCL changes, system exits, or z/OS restarts; the release is also compatible with zPrime 1.2, which presumably means that if you were using 1.2 you can upgrade to 2.1 without having to change anything in your system.

Through the end of last year, more than 1,500 mainframe shops had contacted the company, more than 200 shops have had thought about using zPrime enough to review their licenses with IBM, and 50 shops had put zPrime through the paces in their data centers. Today, Neon says eight companies have actually put zPrime into production, despite the lawsuits - which make ultra-conservative mainframe shops very jumpy.

"IBM's legal team has the zPrime source code, so IBM should have confirmed by now that our code does nothing IBM alleges," explained Lacy Edwards, chief executive officer at Neon, in a statement announcing zPrime 2.l. "We encourage mainframe customers who want to reduce costs to test zPrime and see for themselves how substantial the cost savings can be."

IBM has about 7,000 mainframe customers with maybe 10,000 mainframe footprints driving its $3bn to $4bn mainframe hardware business. So having 1,500 of them think of buying cheaper engines is a big deal. Particularly with mainframe sales dropping in the past couple of quarters in anticipation of the System z11 mainframes, due to be launched in the third quarter. IBM needs every mainframe sale it can get.

The lawsuits between Neon and IBM are moving at the normal glacial pace. Yesterday, US District Judge James Nowlin set out a schedule for the suits, with amended pleadings due by October 22, 2010; discovery due by December 16, 2011; motions due by January 27, 2012; and pretrial conference and jury selection set for March 12, 2012.

Under the former Bush administration, it would not be at all surprising to see IBM and Neon settle their case with IBM taking control of the zPrime code and relegating it to some dark dungeon in Poughkeepsie, New York. This is precisely how IBM dealt with the competitive threat to the mainframe business posed by clone mainframe maker Platform Solutions.

But with the Obama administration being more keen on antitrust concerns and both the US Department of Justice and European Commission pondering Big Blue's monopoly in the mainframe racket (at least for hardware that runs its own software) and French mainframe hardware emulator TurboHercules filing its own complaint against IBM in Europe over anticompetitive behavior, IBM has to proceed very carefully.

Correction: This story originally stated that the Attach interface inside of zPrime had hooks into the z/OS dispatcher. It does not. Neon says there are no such hooks and that "the zPrime Attach interface is enabled using documented IBM system services; those services allow the zPrime Attach interface to obtain control during task creation processing." ®

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