Mainframe Propeller Head

Aug 23 2010   5:17PM GMT

What is Cloud Compiling, and is it safe for mainframes?

Ryan Arsenault Ryan Arsenault Profile: Ryan Arsenault

Cloud computing can be a touchy area for some IT admins – especially when mainframes are brought into the equation – because of security concerns. But if security issues weren’t a concern, would companies be willing to run mainframe workloads in the cloud to reduce mainframe costs? Enter Cloud Compiling.

The St. Paul, Minnesota-based startup is promoting a private cloud for mainframe shops, as well as an externally hosted Software-as-a-Service model for COBOL and z/OS compilers.

Check out the Cloud Compiling presentation from the recent SHARE conference:

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Charles Mills, the Chief Development Officer at Cloud Compiling, LLC, explained that his company’s technology saves companies money on their mainframe software licenses by moving compiles from individually licensed LPARs to a single cloud mainframe, either in a pre-existing private cloud or in the company’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) public cloud. Cloud computing-wise, the program reduces the number of platforms needed to maintain compilers, and improves standards enforcement. In addition to the cloud computing benefits, Mills noted the cost savings is a key selling point of the product.

“Customers pay a license fee for every version of every compiler in their environment, on every mainframe in their environment. This is how IBM licenses compilers,” said Mills. “So, if the customer has multiple versions of COBOL compilers in their environment, they are paying a fee for each one on each of their mainframes, based on MSU rating. With Cloud Compiling, the customer keeps the native compiler or compilers on one designated mainframe, installs Cloud Compiling on the other mainframes, and from there, the technology virtually leverages the native compiler across the enterprise. Programmers compile just like they do today, using the same compilers. We then split the monthly cost savings with the customer – they save 50% and pay us 50% of their total monthly savings.”

For customers with just one mainframe, notes Mills, the SaaS or public cloud model is utilized to similar effect in regard to savings – they split the 50% saved on their mainframe license fees with Cloud Compiling, LLC. The only difference here is that the cloud is created using Cloud Computing’s mainframe – they maintain the native compiler on their mainframe, the customer installs Cloud Compiling on theirs, and then virtually compiles as a service model – in the vein of Mills also notes that there is no up-front investment in Cloud Computing, so ROI is essentially immediate.

I also talked with Mills about any security issues related to the product. Public and private cloud-wise, Mills noted that security options offered include SFTP, or FTP with TLS; VPNs; and PassTickets – IBM’s technology that safeguards passwords. In addition, for mainframes, Cloud Compiling operates on the customer’s in-place security subsystem – either RACF or others. The Cloud Computing technology excludes the use of security credentials for interactive access.

So saving money on mainframe costs sounds good, right? But lots of folks with good ideas have ended up on the wrong side of Big Blue’s legal team lately. I asked Mills if IBM might react negatively to Cloud Compiling and he did not think it would be an issue.

“We are helping IBM customers to optimize their licensing and maximize their use of Z technologies,” said Mills. “Unlike many other companies, we are advocating the continued use of both IBM Hardware and IBM software. Our Cloud Compilers ensure you get the greatest amount of value and flexibility from the platform in general. Any technology that improves the customer’s environment has the side effect of possibly diminishing IBM’s revenues. For example, performance monitors postpone the need for CPU upgrades. For our public cloud customers, our IBM licenses allow us to offer compiling as a service –- we are really no different from any other service bureau.”

For more on Cloud Computing, here’s a video:

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