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z/VSE V4.1 provides a cost-effective mainframe solution to clients of all sizes.

z/VSE V4.1 provides a cost-effective mainframe solution to clients of all sizes.
Illustration by Scott Gwilliams

Although z/OS* is correctly regarded as the flagship OS for the IBM* System z* platform, z/VSE* remains an important part of IBM's mainframe portfolio and a viable option for many satisfied IBM customers. At the risk of oversimplification, z/VSE is similar to z/OS but relatively smaller, simpler and less capable. z/VSE is designed for smaller IBM mainframe clients with somewhat less demanding requirements. For z/VSE users, many of whom have been using it for decades, z/VSE is robust enough without additional applications found in z/OS, and comes with a lower TCO than z/OS. However, both z/OS and z/VSE are equally committed to product quality and customer service that are second to none.


z/VSE V4 has a long tradition that spans more than four decades. DOS/360 was launched in 1965 along with the famed IBM System/360*. Originating as a basic alternative to OS/360*, a distant ancestor of z/OS, DOS/360 quickly became a workhorse OS, especially for the popular S/360 Model 30. In the 1970s and '80s, DOS/360 evolved into DOS/VS (S/370*), DOS/VSE (4300), and VSE/SP (9370). VSE/ESA* V1 was introduced in 1990 along with the ES/9000*. VSE/ESA V2 replaced V1 as IBM S/390* CMOS technology replaced bipolar in the mid-1990s. VSE/ESA V2 was later rebranded and reversioned as z/VSE V3.

More recently, z/VSE V4.1 was previewed April 27, 2006, along with the IBM System z9* Business Class (z9 BC) announcement. z/VSE V4.1 was announced Jan. 9, 2007 and shipped March 16.

The VSE Environment

Today, VSE (the generic term "VSE" includes z/VSE V4, z/VSE V3, and VSE/ESA V2) can be found providing robust, cost-effective mainframe solutions for many clients, of various sizes, in most industry sectors worldwide.

Over the years, many VSE clients made a sizable cumulative investment in their existing VSE solutions. Client investments include proven, specialized, highly evolved core application code, data, IT skills, application knowledge, industry experience and equipment, plus business processes and end-user training. As business conditions and needs change over time, some existing VSE applications may need to be replaced. However, with selective modernization and ongoing enhancements and extensions, plus normal program maintenance, many core VSE applications can continue to meet their business objectives for the foreseeable future.

VSE clients prefer to continue using z/VSE and the System z platform as part of their overall IT solutions for the foreseeable future. All else being equal, they believe it's wiser to devote scarce resources to creating new business solutions that enhance competitiveness rather than spinning their wheels rehosting or replacing perfectly good VSE solutions.

Most VSE clients have several major platforms in their overall IT infrastructures. Besides the System z platform and z/VSE (perhaps with z/VM* providing z/VSE guest support), they have one or more other platforms. For example, these platforms might include IBM System p* with AIX 5L* or Linux*, the System x* platform with Windows* or Linux, the System i* platform with i5/OS* or Linux, or IBM BladeCenter* servers. If you name a platform, a VSE client somewhere probably has it. For a growing number of VSE clients, the IBM System z platform with an Integrated Facility for Linux running z/VM and Linux is seen as a compelling complementary platform. Figure 1 details the z/VSE environment.

This mix of valuable, proven core VSE solutions plus many other platforms is common among VSE clients. It's essential that they have the option of continuing to use core VSE solutions at the same time they're adding new solutions on other platforms. A critical objective is that new solutions, regardless of platform, be capable of leveraging and exploiting existing core z/VSE applications and data.

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