Mainframe Propeller Head

Mar 25 2009   3:31PM GMT

Putting it all together: PSI, the mainframe, and blade servers

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

When IBM announced that it was buying Platform Solutions Inc. last year, most people thought Big Blue was doing it to shut PSI up.

Before the acquisition, IBM and PSI were in a nasty legal fight over 1) whether PSI was violating IBM copyright by using z/OS on its Itanium-based servers; and 2) whether IBM was trying to monopolize the mainframe market by binding z/OS only to its own hardware. Now that fight is over, although T3 Technologies, a company that had a licensing and distribution deal with PSI, is continuing the legal battle, as documented by The New York Times in a piece this week (and as we wrote about in January).

Needless to say, there are some who think PSI had more to offer IBM than just lawsuits, and saying otherwise is unfair to former engineers at PSI and Amdahl (Amdahl being the company that spun off to become PSI). See, PSI’s biggest selling point was that its servers could run z/OS, Unix, Linux and Windows all on a single Intel Itanium-based box. So perhaps IBM is taking that capability and using it for its own mainframes and other servers.

In a follow-up blog to the Times story, Ashlee Vance wrote this:

The Platform engineers had also built technology that would offload some mainframe jobs like encryption and data analysis onto separate machines such as x86-based servers or even machines using I.B.M.’s Cell chip. The idea was to speed up these jobs with more modern hardware and to create a path between industry-standard servers and mainframes.

Such technology could well appear in new mainframe systems due to arrive in late 2010 or early 2011, according to numerous people interviewed for my story.

This could tie into the System z keynote speech at Share, which was given by Karl Freund, a VP in the IBM System z group. In an interview after the keynote, Freund divulged some details. Think blade server as a mainframe LPAR:

“It will be like being able to treat those blade servers as if they were System z, from a systems management perspective,” he said. “Extending the z role to a heterogeneous environment.”

According to Freund, it would be like running a blade server as if it were another logical partition (LPAR) on your mainframe. Though there is little comparison between the hardware of a mainframe and an Intel blade, Freund said management will be easier, being able to handle one systems management console, and having failover going to the same sysplex, rather than using different backup platforms.

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