Marist's cloud is starting to get some attention. "Four years ago, when I started talking about this, everybody looked at me like I was crazy," Thirsk says. But as the years have passed, others have taken an interest in Marist's computing environment. He notes that he has hosted lots of visitors eager to learn what the college is doing, including representatives from 21 companies and several universities last year. "We're talking to a college in the Middle East that has over 200,000 students," Thirsk says. "There's only one way to meet that load: with a mainframe."
Along with several concurrent developments, zEnterprise could make the mainframe into a true cloud platform, says Susan Eustis, president of WinterGreen Research in Lexington, Mass. Just in the past several months, she says, IBM has improved WebSphere, improved z/VM and adjusted its pricing structure -- all moves to make the mainframe more cloud-friendly, she says. Eustis thinks that IBM now has all the pieces in place to enable business units to self-provision a mainframe-based cloud.
At the very least, zEnterprise could change the traditional thinking about mainframes. "I think you'll start seeing the mainframe viewed in a different way," says Hurwitz. As mainframes begin to run more of the same software as other high-end servers and gain expanded service-management capabilities, "people are going to see it as the high end of the server market as opposed to a world unto itself."
Harbert is a Washington, D.C.-based writer specializing in technology, business, and public policy. She can be contacted through her website, TamHarbert.com.