Featuring several security, networking and systems management enhancements, IBM said the latest version of the OS/390 mainframe operating system is designed to help users get serious about electronic commerce.
"The theme around this release has been around what's needed to further the capability for doing e-business," said Doug Balog, Armonk, New York-based IBM's director of S/390 software product management.
To that end, OS/390 2.7 ships with a beefed-up version of the OS' networking software, eNetwork Communications, which features support for Gigabit Ethernet adapters. Balog said this will give users more throughput and relieve congestion in TCP/IP networks.
The OS also includes Enterprise Extender which will let users deliver Systems Network Architecture (SNA) and IP capability over the same network.
OS/390's Web Server, WebSphere Application Server, has also been enhanced. "Besides the performance aspect, we've got the next set of functions in WebSphere associated with ... (support for) digital certificates, Java servlets, that whole type of area," Balog said.
The new Service Policy Agent lets network administrators control network priorities, and limit access and throughput for TCP/IP users and applications.
Application integration is also a concern for S/390 users, Balog said. "This problem of the proliferation of servers is one [users] are all wrestling with."
That's why OS/390 2.7 ships with an improved version of Unix System Services, including a new level of Data Facility Storage Management System (DFMS/MVS) with a restructured Hierarchical File System to help remove bottlenecks and improve CPU efficiency.
Systems management capability has also been addressed, Balog said. OS/390 now comes with an agent that lets users manage S/390s using Tivoli Systems' system management console.
As well, OS/390 ships with more security features, including the latest standards for Virtual Private Networks (VPN), Internet Protocol Security (IPSec), Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMPv3) and Triple DES.
Finally, OS/390 features Open Cryptographic Services Facility, designed to be compatible with Open Group's Common Data Security Architecture (CDSA) standard, among others.
The latest version of OS/390 should please mainframe shop managers who want to take advantage of IP without abandoning their big iron applications, said Freddie Robinson, assistant director of technical operations at the University of Miami is interested in Version 2.7 for his shop, which uses an S/390 to handle 1,000 to 1,200 Web sessions at any given time.
The university's mainframe is used by students for accessing transcript information and other data via the Web, while also hosting traditional business applications, such as payroll.
Robinson said he likes the idea of using a mainframe as a Web server rather than running a separate server alongside the big box. "Users already know how to maintain [the mainframe], back it up and operate it, and can use it for future e-business applications."
Josh Krischer, research director of enterprise systems with Stamford, Connecticut-based Gartner Group, said in the past IBM preached scalability with Parallel Sysplex on the S/390. But mainframe technology has gone far beyond the needs of most IS departments. And that has forced IBM to change its message to one of availability.
"They will push a lot to show that System/390 is the highest availability platform, and also has the highest throughput performance, in particular for huge Web servers." The bulk of S/390 sales will go toward upgrades, facilitating new applications and Y2K replacements, Krischer said.
Krischer expects major S/390 architectural changes sometime in the second half of 2000, and he advises any new or current S/390 users who are thinking of buying to make sure they put upgrade clauses in their contracts.
"When the new architecture is announced, the residual value of the previous architecture will drop immediately, to almost zero. So this is most important," he said.
OS/390 Version 2.7 (http://www.s390.ibm.com) is currently available, and the upgrade is free for existing 2.x customers. Cost varies depending on customer needs -- users of the S/390 Parallel Sysplex clustering technology whose clusters exceed 1,800 MIPS are eligible for a new discounted pricing scheme.