Mainframe Simplicity Not an Oxymoron?

IBM to spend $100 million over next five years to simplify its System z mainframes.
Sometimes it's hard to be easy.

IBM has revitalized its mainframe business in recent years, but the company is concerned that the big system's complexity could be a barrier to winning new business.

"We think we have the most sophisticated operating system on the planet," John Burg, product marketing manager for IBM's System z mainframes, told

That sophistication comes with a raft of features and security functions that aren't always easy to master. Burg said IBM is bringing in more modern elements to its mainframe software, like a graphical user interface and wizards, (define) to make computer science graduates and others more comfortable learning the systems "without having to go back to school."

Specifically, IBM (Quote, Chart) said it will invest $100 million over the next five years to help make it easier for technology administrators and computer programmers to program, manage and administer a mainframe system as well as more easily automate the development and deployment of applications.

The most recent version of IBM's z/OS v1.8 operating system software for the System z mainframe includes several programs and tools that represent a start in the direction IBM is headed.

For example, the IBM Health Checker for z/OS acts as a kind of personal trainer, actively monitoring the system and recommending configuration tune-ups that can improve system resilience, security and performance.

The OMEGAMON z/OS Management Console features a graphical user interface for z/OS management. The Console delivers real-time, health check information, which IBM said helps automate, eliminate and simplify many z/OS management tasks.

IBM also said it plans to expand the role of the Management Console over time to continue to "put a modern face on z/OS management and administration."

The latest Hardware Configuration Manager in z/OS 1.8 includes new configuration wizards, the ability to import and export I/O Definition Files, and integrated access to RMF Monitor III reports, which can help speed up the detection and resolution of performance bottlenecks.

Analyst Charles King thinks IBM's investment is a good idea, particularly if it wants to keep growing its mainframe business.

"I think there's a recognition that when customers that own the billions of dollars of mainframe equipment out there are looking for young up and coming IT staff, they find out the mainframe is not what they want to be working on," King, analyst with Pund-IT Research in Hayward, CA, told

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