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IBM Seems to Be Feeling Neon’s Heat

Neon’s zPrime software lets mainframers use SPs to offload & run classic mainframe DB2, CICS, IMS, TSO/ISPF & batch workloads

IBM wants its mainframe users to install a patch that will let IBM peer into the Specialty Processors (SPs) they have on their machines so it can see what they're using the widgets for.

And the only reason that Big Blue would want to do that is if it thinks it may lose the antitrust suit filed against it by Neon Enterprise Software.

See, Neon's zPrime software lets mainframers use SPs - which are otherwise called zIIPs and zAAPs and are actually just standard mainframe central processors under another name - to offload and run classic mainframe DB2, CICS, IMS, TSO/ISPF and batch workloads free of IBM's notoriously exorbitant monthly fees.

IBM claims it's illegal to run those workloads on SPs and that users are contractually limited to running XML and Java programs and accelerating DB2 workloads on the things.

IBM created the widgets so it wouldn't lose valuable mainframe business to modern distributed systems, which is why it doesn't charge customers to use them.

Neon claims no such contracts exist anywhere and is currently waiting to hear back from a Texas federal judge if he's going to grant it a partial summary judgment saying IBM hasn't a leg to stand on in claiming that the workloads that can be run on SPs are contractually restricted.

His decision in Neon's favor would legitimatize the use of the forbidden zPrime and could cost IBM billions of dollars in licensing fees since Neon claims to be able to offload more than half of a mainframe's workloads on to SPs.

IBM has used its contract claims - and a few other terror tactics - to scare customers off of zPrime. It's also made SPs hard to get and insisted that users take a blood oath not to use the things for zPrime, basically changing the terms of existing contracts after the fact and raising a little issue of Clayton Antitrust Act violation. The law says you're not allowed to condition the sale of a product on the buyer not using rival products.

Blue is now trying to coax customers into installing the all-seeing patch or APAR in mainframe terminology. It's even offering owners of its shiny new z196 mainframe, just out last summer, a little discount to download the thing, a discount it may make back with the 10% increase it just slapped on a whole host of old Flat Workload-licensed software products, a list that fills about 38 pages single-spaced.

Since IBM has been trying to outlaw zPrime since it came out in the middle of 2009, it seems odd it didn't make the APAR a default on the new z196, suggesting it may have recently reappraised its legal odds. Neon did get a fast-track schedule from the Texas court and its multiple anticompetitive charges go to trial in about six months.

Neon, which believed to have a couple of dozen zPrime customers braving IBM's wrath, suspects the spyware will eventually be mandatory and then IBM can hook it into its monthly reporting system and start charging for using SPs.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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