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Sendmail launches suite for mainframe

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Everything old is new again with Sendmail's recent announcement that its suite of Internet messaging software is available for IBM's mainframes.

Five years after many companies began migrating e-mail applications from mainframes to client-server systems, Sendmail is touting the largest e-mail server on the market by running its software on IBM's eServer z900 mainframe. The twist is that Sendmail's e-mail gateway and server software run on Linux on the IBM mainframe.

Sendmail says the combination of its software and IBM's eServer z900 can support more than 2 million users. It plans to target companies already running mission-critical applications on IBM mainframes and service providers supporting large volumes of e-mail.

"Mainframes make phenomenally good e-mail servers by way of their architecture," explains Greg Olson, executive vice president of business development at Sendmail. "E-mail servers are I/O bound, need scalability and need rock-solid reliability."

Mark Levitt, research director at IDC, points out that IBM's mainframe-based Profs system was a popular e-mail platform in the early 1990s. "By the mid-1990s, enterprises started moving away from running messaging applications on mainframes," Levitt says. He adds that companies preferred Unix-based servers.

However, companies are now finding the centralized computing model of mainframes more attractive for a variety of applications.

"The challenge is going to be convincing service providers and enterprises that have not traditionally used mainframes that they can be highly scalable, highly available platforms for hosting messaging systems," Levitt says. "For the Sendmail/IBM partnership to be successful, they will need to convince companies to go back to the future and realize the benefits of putting thousands of users on a single server."

Most companies already use a client-server e-mail application such as Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes or Novell GroupWise internally. The Sendmail software complements these applications by handling e-mail from customers, suppliers and business partners coming into the corporate network from the Internet.

That's the scenario at L.L. Bean, which is the first customer of Sendmail's software for IBM mainframes. L.L. Bean will use Sendmail's mainframe software to handle e-mail exchanges with its Web site customers including order confirmation and promotions.

"We've seen a dramatic increase in the volume of [Internet] e-mail as well as an increase in the criticality of that e-mail," says Donna Lamberth, a senior manager for IS at L.L. Bean's Freeport, Maine, headquarters.

L.L. Bean was running the open source version of Sendmail on an IBM RS/6000 server for Internet mail and GroupWise for corporate e-mail. The New England retailer also has an IBM mainframe running its order-entry and inventory-management systems. L.L. Bean needed a more reliable platform for Sendmail and wanted to consolidate as many applications as possible on its existing mainframe.

L.L. Bean will go live with the Sendmail mainframe software this month.

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