IBM Tries To Stall Neon’s zPrime Mainframe Booster

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Neon claims its software could start a mainframe renaissance – but IBM is getting threatening over licence issues

“This is the biggest thing to happen to the mainframe market for a while – and IBM’s response is to try and hold onto its profits,” said Professor Bryan Foss of Bristol Business School, a former IBM executive now acting as an independent advisor for organisations – which have included the Department of Work and Pensions.

“As an independent, I want to see the market moving forward, said Professor Foss. “Organisations like Lloyds and RBOS should be able to get better for taxpayers’ money – and one way to do this is to transform the mainframe environment.”

Foss believes IBM’s contracts don’t forbid the use of specialty processors for general tasks. Many of those contracts are generic agreements which have been renewed repeatedly since the 1980s, when this technology was not dreamt of, he said.

If IBM could stop this – why is it not doing so?

“If IBM had legal powers to prevent this, maybe it would be using them already,” said Foss. “The letter tells users to go back to look at those contracts, without being specific. Did they envisage this when those contracts were written? IBM is playing on users’ nervousness – rather than finding out what customers actually want.”

Foss echoes Rockmann’s argument against IBM’s restrictions on the use of hardware: “Specialty processors all look the same as central processor. It is only the microcode on them that varies what they do”. But IBM uses them strategically, subsidising them to boost the market for its software: “These processors are sold at ten or twenty percent of the price of the main one.”

At present most users are still trialling the software, rather than using it on live systems – but Foss points out that developers will always run a full system in test mode, so those tests have already demonstrated zPrime is ready for prime time.

“If I was a CFO or CIO, I would be trialling it, and then I would call IBM in to talk,” he said. Pressure from customers could force the company to deliver a more competitive, more open mainframe: “I think it’s a catalyst for change. If IBM take the right approach, this could regenerate the mainframe.”

An IBM spokesperson told eWEEK Europe: “We’ve asked Neon for details, but they have not responded. Thus, we can’t comment.”

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