Mainframe users should turn to Application Performance Management to control costs in wake of NEON zPrime injunction says Macro 4

Affected users facing millions of pounds worth of higher software license and CPU upgrade costs.


Mainframe users who are facing higher software licensing charges and possible CPU hardware upgrades in the wake of a recent court ruling, should turn to Application Performance Management (APM) techniques to control costs by ensuring their applications run more efficiently.

This is the view of software and services company, Macro 4, which is in discussions with a number of user organizations affected by the permanent injunction, passed in May. The injunction directed software company, NEON Enterprise Software, to stop selling and supporting its zPrime software, which allowed users to reduce IBM mainframe software licensing fees in a way which IBM did not permit.

”Mainframe software charges are linked to the peak monthly workload on the mainframes’ general purpose engines, measured in MIPS (Million Instructions per Second) and zPrime allowed firms to cut licensing payments by diverting processing workload off the mainframe central processors onto the zIIP and zAAP specialty processors. The injunction could mean these organizations are now heading for higher licence charges which could approach millions of pounds a year. They should be looking for alternative - and more long term – solutions such as APM,” said Philip Mann, a principal consultant at Macro 4.

For some zPrime users there is also the prospect of unscheduled hardware upgrades as the workloads that were diverted by the software return to their central processors, according to Mr Mann:

“Each additional MIP of processing power typically costs around £2,500 in hardware and software charges. So if a company running a 10,000 MIPS system now has to increase capacity by just ten per cent per annum because it has lost the benefits of the zPrime software, the annual incremental cost will be in the region of £2.5 million. These sorts of numbers are quite typical.”

He said there were also plenty of other organizations who had been hoping the lawsuit would rule in favour of NEON so they too could adopt zPrime to help cut their own costs and who are also now looking for an alternative approach.

“You could say that Neon zPrime users were getting a free lunch for a while. But as it turned out they couldn’t go on enjoying the benefits forever,” he added.

APM, which Macro 4 enables with a number of specialist performance solutions and tools, is a more efficient and permanent way of reducing mainframe running costs according to Mr Mann:

“APM starts with profiling and understanding the way your applications use mainframe resources as they run - especially CPU. It helps determine whether they really need all the resources they are using and with this information you can then make focused tuning efforts in specific areas of software code within the applications - and especially the database calls which tend to use a lot of resources. It can reduce the CPU requirements to run your applications by an enormous percentage.

“The upshot is that you can make the applications run more efficiently, deliver better service, and at the same time use fewer computing resources. And you are getting genuine, permanent savings rather than just diverting workload from one place to another – which is all zPrime was doing.”

Macro 4’s APM tools have been successfully used over the years by many mainframe customers to reduce licensing costs. Retailing giant, Tesco, was able to to reduce MIPS consumption by between 10 and 15 per cent in one project, which allowed it to avoid purchasing extra CPU capacity.