OS/390 upgrade targets e-business users

IBM Corp. last week announced a new version of its mainframe operating system that adds new management and security features, which are targeted at users with a growing reliance on electronic business.

IBM added several enhancements to Version 2 Release 8 of its OS/390 software that position it as a stronger and more secure platform for conducting business electronically.

The World Wide Web is driving "electronic transaction processing," and along with it come new requirements for high availability and security, said Doug Balog, director of IBM System 390 (S/390) software. "We're meeting the needs of customers who want to do electronic business with the 390," he said. "This whole concept of robust infrastructure to do electronic business is what we're focused on around Release 8."

New features in Version 2 Release 8 include the following:

Support for the Internet Key Exchange Internet Protocol security protocol, which is a certificate and key management framework. IKE will enable users to dynamically manage virtual private network encryption keys.

Support for central management of digital certificates and related encryption keys belonging to server applications.

Support for Virtual IP Addressing Takeover, which associates real IP addresses with "pseudo" addresses. If a connection fails, traffic automatically is routed to an alternate connection associated with a pseudo address.

Support for Version 3 of the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, which is becoming the standard method to access directories on a network. That will let the OS/390 LDAP server interoperate with other LDAP Version 3 clients and servers.

In addition, Release 8 allows administrators to update service policies on the network at any time; supports the Internet Printing Protocol to process print jobs via the Internet; and can prioritize workloads and separately manage each Web request, such as credit-card processing and downloading information.

Security is essential for government agencies conducting electronic business, which typically gather and disperse data rather than do online transactions, said Nancy Premen, S/390 software sales manager for IBM Federal. "We're also seeing the government starting to use Lotus Domino products with the 390 so agencies can have geographically dispersed users that can share the same information," she said. "Agencies are focused on anything that can guarantee a secure environment."

IBM's OS/390 provides many features and functionality that Unix and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT cannot touch, especially in the area of security, which is essential for electronic business, said Maria DeGiglio, senior industry analyst at the D.H. Andrews Group. "OS/390 may be perceived to be competing with Unix and even at some level with NT, but what they're bringing to the market pales in comparison to what IBM has delivered with its S/390 enterprise-class servers," she said.

S/390, which runs OS/390, is particularly suited for enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, DeGiglio added, because it is highly reliable and scalable. Many organizations that selected Unix or NT platforms for their ERP applications are "hitting the scalability and reliability wall" and are choosing S/390 to run such mission-critical applications, she said.

With this latest release, IBM wants to keep its installed base on the S/390 as the market shifts to electronic business, said Cal Braunstein, chair, chief executive officer and principal analyst at the Robert Frances Group Inc. in Westport, Conn. "IBM is saying 'Don't move off it. This is a trusted system. Just because you have a new distribution channel doesn't mean you should abandon this infrastructure.' "

IBM will add the software to the General Services Administration schedule.

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