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CA Makes Mainframe Security Play

To unveil new tape encryption next week, after IBM pinned its own colors to the mainframe mast

Next week Computer Associates will announce encryption software designed to ease the security strain on mainframe users, just days after IBM unveiled a slew of new mainframe tools. (See Mainframe Mid-Life Crisis and IBM Unveils Software.)

The news is further proof, if any is needed, that rumors of the mainframe's demise are premature. In CA's view, demand for mainframe improvements continues unabated. "What has been lacking has been a way to manage encryption in ways mainframe users have been used to," says Mary Cochetti, product marketing manager for CA's BrightStor division. She says CA's new BrightStor Tape Encryption software, which encrypts and decrypts IBM zSeries mainframe data as it is written to tape, fills the bill.

One beta user thinks it does, too. Boston University relies on a single IBM z890 mainframe as the central server for all its student, faculty, and alumni data. Gerard Shockley, the University's assistant director of technical services, started experimenting with CA's product in February and finished beta-testing it in late March. "It is blatantly simple and that's what we like about it," he says.

With the new CA software, Shockley does not have to change the Job Control Language (JCL) interfaces that link to z/OS in order to secure his data. This, he explained, was not the case with IBM's Encryption Facility software, which he also evaluated. "The possibility of errors are minimized when there are no changes required," he says.

Shockley notes that this kind of simplicity has been vital to keep up with growth. "The mainframe is stronger than ever. We're growing at an annual rate of 20 percent in terms of CPU utilization."

Flexibility has also been a key benefit for BU. "We liked the fact that you could select from a number of [encryption] algorithms based on the type of data. For example, we may use a different algorithm for our database backup than we would for super-sensitive files."

A number of vendors, including Decru and NeoScale, also offer hardware-based encryption for the mainframe market, although Shockley tells Byte and Switch that he is much more comfortable with a software-based approach. "Software is more seamlessly transportable to our disaster recovery vendor. Hardware may have required additional scheduling of time and, possibly, additional cost."

CA's coming announcement isn't the only evidence that mainframes are alive and well and calling forth tighter security in today's data centers. IBM, which took the wraps off the world's first mainframe, the System 360, back in 1964, unveiled new software for its zSeries platform earlier this week. These include new WebSphere Process Server, Portal, and ESB products, which aim to boost mainframe Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) capabilities. The vendor also announced new DB2 Viper software for handling email, video, and RFID data, as well as a new Tivoli Identity Manager, specifically for securing mainframe transactions.

Despite all this mainframe activity, even IBM can't deny that mainframe technology isn't the top of the data center heap as it once was. AFCOM, the data center managers' organization, has warned of a looming skills gap, with many mainframe experts heading for retirement and the next generation of IT managers more interested in "sexier" Web technologies. (See Mainframe Skills Shortage Looms.)

IBM told Byte and Switch that it is taking steps to address this issue, developing mainframe course ware that has already been deployed in nearly 300 universities worldwide. The vendor also recently sponsored a "Master the Mainframe" competition, involving 700 students from 85 colleges and universities. Jim Rhyne, chief architect of IBM's WebSphere division, denies any suggestion that the mainframe's days are numbered. "Since the advent of the Internet, we have seen the demand for mainframe MIPS go up something like 20 percent every year," he says.

Pricing for CA's new encryption software, which is available now, starts at $60,000. IBM's new Process Server and ESB offerings will be available next month, with WebSphere Portal, DB2 Viper, and the new Tivoli Identity Manager on the market later this year. IBM, however, is yet to release pricing information for these products.

— James Rogers, Senior Editor, and Dave Raffo, News Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • CA Inc. (NYSE: CA)
  • Decru Inc.
  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)
  • NeoScale Systems Inc.

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