IBM is determined to show that the reports of the mainframe's death have much exaggerated. The company has just announced a mammoth release of ten new software products all designed to improve the performance and introduce cost efficiencies for IBM's System Z mainframe.

The new products cover a range of functionality including enhanced application connectivity, productivity, security and data management.

The appearance of so many products at once made a statement, said Jim Porell, a distinguished engineer at IBM. "It's a pretty massive launch," but he believed it was necessary to introduce so many enhancements at once. "The mainframe is competing with distributed environments - we wanted to show that there was a real commitment from IBM to the mainframe," he said.

Porell said the themes of the new software launches were to simplify management, to offer a more consistent view of the data and to improve access. "The mainframe is like an interstate highway," he said. "But trying to communicate with it is like using dirt back roads," he added.

One of the key announcements was a new version of IBM's information management system. The new release, IMS 11m uses open standards such as SQL to access IMS data said Porell.

Concerns about security have been met by the release of Tivoli zSecure to provide improved handling for the reporting of mainframe event: an important aspect of this is the improved graphical capability added Porell.

Complementing this is a new version of management product NetView helping managers get better insight on System Z data centres, while Asset Discovery for z/OS removes unused and obsolete software. "What are your assets?" said Porell, "this makes sure that software that is not being used can be removed, it offers a massive saving on licence costs."

Among the releases are Rational Developer for System z version 7.6 which IBM claimed would lower development costs by reducing CPU usage, while Rational Team Concert for System z version 2.0 uses a new common repository to help development collaborate better.

Porell said that the company was keen to demonstrate where the mainframe offered an advantage over distributed systems. "You can get rid of multiple boxes and build everything on the mainframe. It simplifies the process and you don't so many people to keep the systems running.