IBM is attempting to reinvent big iron with zEnterprise, a new systems design that allows workloads on its mainframes and blade servers to share resources and be managed as a single virtualized system.

What’s more, IBM has unified development and testing across tier architecture, and has offloaded development work from the mainframe.

Big Blue announced the zEnterprise mainframe server yesterday in New York. The system’s design combines the zEnterprise mainframe with new IBM software (IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension and the IBM zEnterprise Unified Resource Manager) that enable it to manage workloads running across System z, and select POWER7 and System x systems.

IBM said that unified systems management will reduce the cost and complexity of managing IT infrastructure, which may operate in silos, requiring different staff and software tools to manage them.

IBM Rational Developer for System z uses the same ID for both mainframe and Java work, providing a common view for developers that improves communication, said Scott Searle, a marketing program director for IBM Rational. A new System z Unit Test feature allows developers to work outside of the mainframe environment.

Developers can run z/OS on their laptop or on an X86 server, Searle said. Other benefits include a modern GUI, and being able to work at any time, not just when there is a mainframe maintenance window, he noted. “[Developers] can do everything but the final runtime check.”

This, the company said, is a major improvement over application maintenance using green-screen Interactive System Productivity Facility development tools, which can be difficult to do, and organizational knowledge may be lost over time.

Together, the zEnterprise technologies provide for unified management of end-to-end applications spanning mainframes, Unix (IBM Power) systems and x86 servers. IBM has also added support for new mainframe workloads running on specialty processors, including the IFL (Integrated Facility for Linux) specialty processor and a processor to accelerate the performance of Java-based workloads.

“New applications will inherit the benefits of mainframe-enforced security software and high-availability features,” said IDC research vice president Jean Bozman. Nothing would prevent a customer from using a zEnterprise mainframe as a server in the cloud, she added.

A new CICS deployment assistance tool for z/OS provides comprehensive reporting and improved change-management facilities for CICS, helping to further reduce maintenance cost, the company said.

A further benefit of the zEnterprise system design is reduced latency through closer and faster network connections, and through Unified Resource Manager, Bozman said.

“You can think of the mainframe as a superhighway that will allow you to go at speeds that nothing else can match, but it had a dirt onramp,” Searle said. “Now it has an equal opportunity for consideration for the development of services in the future.”