Mainframe Propeller Head

Mar 2 2010   8:44PM GMT

Two IBM patents, and how they might relate to the mainframe

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

Yesterday I had a chance to talk to Jim Porell, a distinguished engineer at IBM who also occasionally writes for The Mainframe Blog. We talked about two patents IBM recently received that, despite an initial look, could be applied in some way to the mainframe.

The first is called a “method and apparatus for managing multi-stream input/output requests in a network file server.” According to Porell, the patent originated with IBM’s System p, Power-based Unix systems in mind. The basic idea is the ability to access data quicker when multiple users are trying to to it at the same time. With Power, that capability can be beneficial for high performance computing and video streaming, for example. In the System z environment, it could be good for, say, an insurance company trying to process claims that requires repeated access to the same kind of form.

“If there are a lot of people looking at a similar data stream, you can take something off the physical media and put it into a memory buffer so users can have quick access to it,” Porell said. “Why do multiple reads of the same item? Multiple people are going after the same stuff.”

The second patent Porell talked about was being able to dynamically assign levels of access to employees, either increasing access levels or decreasing them depending on the situation. The patent is titled “Determination of access rights to information technology resources.”

Interestingly enough, the patent was designed to help local emergency response teams and law enforcement officials deal with emergency situations through administrative access levels. But it can also be used in the IT world.

“The problem is that if you give everyone in the world superuser authority, stuff is going to happen because someone will use it in an illicit way,” Porell said. “This is a way for lesser-skilled people to get access to things when they have an urgent need but then also to remove that access when their task is completed.”

Of course, any usable technology that derives from these patents could still be a ways off. Porell couldn’t set a specific timeline for the two above, but said it could be as quickly as a year and as long as three years, with a lot of it probably implemented in stages.

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