Posts Tagged ‘DataPower’

Technology Change is Coming for the zBX

November 1, 2013

The zBX hasn’t been subject to much in the way of big new announcements this year.  Maybe the most obvious was a quiet announcement that the zBX would connect to the zBC12, the newest System z machine announced early in the summer. Buried deeply in that July announcement was that starting in Sept. 2013 you could attach the IBM zBX Model 003 to the new machine. Machines older than the zEC12 would need the zBX Model 002.

At Enterprise 2013, however, the zBX managed to grab a little of the spotlight in a session by Harv Emery titled IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension Model 3 and Model 2 Deep Dive Update. OK, it’s not exactly a riveting title, but Emery’s 60 slides were packed with far more detail than can possibly fit here.

To summarize:  a slew of software and firmware updates will be coming through the end of this year and into 2014. Similarly, starting next year and beyond, IBM will begin to stop marketing older zBX hardware and eventually stop supporting the older stuff.  This is standard IBM practice; what makes it surprising is the realization that the zBX no longer is the new kid on the scene. PureSystems in their various iterations are the sexy newcomer.  As of the end of last year somewhat over 200 z hybrid units (zBX cabinets) had been sold along with considerably more blades. Again, PureSystems are IBM’s other hybrid platform.

Still, as Emery pointed out, new zBX functionality continues to roll out. This includes:

  • CPU management for x86 blades
  • Support for Windows 12, and current LDP OS releases
  • GDPS automated site recovery for zBX
  • Ensemble Availability Manager for improved monitoring and reporting
  • Support for Layer 2 communications
  • An IBM statement of direction (SOD) on support for next generation DataPower Virtual Appliance XI52
  • Support for next generation hardware technologies in the zBX
  • zBX firmware currency
  • A stand-alone zBX node to preserve the investment
  • Bolstered networking including a new BNT Virtual Fabric 10 GbE Switch
  • zBX integrated hypervisor for IBM System x blades and running KVM

Emery also did a little crystal balling about future capabilities, relying partly on recent IBM SODs. These include:

  • Support of zBX with the next generation server
  • New technology configuration extensions in the zBX
  • CEC and zBX continued investment in the virtualization and management capabilities for hybrid computing environment
  • Enablement of Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) for Cloud
  • Unified Resource Manager improvements and extensions for guest mobility
  • More monitoring instrumentation
  • Autonomic management functions
  • Integration with the STG Portfolio
  • Continued efforts by zEnterprise and STG to leverage the Tivoli portfolio to deliver enterprise-wide management capabilities across all STG systems

DancingDinosaur periodically has been asked questions about how to handle storage for the zBX and the blades it contains.  Emery tried to address some of those.  Certain blades, DataPower for example, now come with their own storage and don’t need to any outside storage on the host z.  Through the top of the rack switch in the zBX you can connect to a distributed SAN.

Emery also noted the latest supported storage devices.  Supported IBM storage products as of Sept. 2013 include: DS3400, 3500, 3950, 4100, 4200, 4700 4800, 5020, 5100, 5300, 6000, 8100, 8300, 8700, 8800, SVC 2145, XIV, 2105, 2107, and Storwize v7000. Non-IBM storage is possible but you or you’re the OEM storage vendor will have to figure it out.

Finally, Emery made numerous references to Unified Resource Manager (or zManager, although it manages more than z) for the zBX and Flex System Manager for PureSystems.  Right now IBM tries to bridge the two systems with higher level management from Tivoli.  Another possibility, Emery hinted, is OpenStack to unify hybrid management. Sounds very intriguing, especially given IBM’s announced intention to make extensive use of OpenStack. Is there an interoperable OpenStack version of Unified Resource Manager and Flex System Manager in the works?

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zEnterprise Use Cases Start Rolling In

January 27, 2012

IBM has become more forthcoming with information about the initial zEnterprise hybrid computing users. This is a welcomed development.

These organizations adopted the zEnterprise and the zBX to run a hybrid (mixed platform) computing environment, not just as a bigger, faster z10.  What those organizations are doing—the use cases—is essential information if an IT manager is to seriously consider adopting a hybrid computing strategy.

A few names already have trickled out. EUROCONTROL, one of the more recent, was reported at DancingDinosaur here. EUROCONTROL is the European air traffic control organization. Its goal was to streamline operations and reduce costs. IBM put out a news release on it here, in November. Then in December, IBM unveiled BG Phoenics, a European IT services provider, here.  BG Phoenics turned to hybrid computing—two z196 machines, two zBX cabinets with POWER7 and System x blades in a cluster running Linux, DB2, WebSphere, Tivoli, and more to reduce server and management sprawl.

An interesting data warehousing use case is Nova Ljubljanska Bank (NLB), a Slovenia bank. IBM provided the bank with a new z196 and business analytics capabilities. The analytics initially took the form of the Smart Analytics Optimizer but with plans to upgrade to the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator (IDAA), a blade that incorporates Netezza capabilities. The system also included the zBX, Linux on z, and DB2 for z/OS. The goal was to speed up the processing of financial queries. Complex queries that previously had taken up to 1.5 hours to complete can now be completed in seconds. Check out the NLB video here.

A utilities company that previously ran Power Systems switched to the z196, zBX, POWER7 blades, DB2 v10, and SAP to support growth that would drive its previous production throughput of 80,000 bills/hour to over 150,000 bills per hour. Actually the system turned out to be able to scale above 400,000 bills per hour, more than enough to support an anticipated 30 million added customers over the next 18 months. The z196 was configured with 100 GB of memory, 7 CPs and 7 zIIPs.

So, zEnterprise hybrid computing use cases are starting to be published. Certainly more details are needed, not only on the speeds, feed, and configurations, but also implementation details, the choices that were made, and the organizational challenges that had to be overcome.  Have no doubt, hybrid computing entails significant organizational challenges starting before the machines even hit the loading dock. Also needed is third-party validation. But this a welcome start.  DancingDinosaur is looking forward to more.

At the same time IBM unveiled the recent use cases, it also offered some details on zEnterprise and hybrid computing adoption. For example, approximately 100 organizations took zBX cabinets and over 950 blades have been shipped.  Last fall that number stood at around 80 zBX cabinets shipped. And despite weak sales performance in the Q411, the amount of z MIPS shipped in 2011 still grew 16%. Also, a full complement of zBX blades now are shipping: POWER7, System x blades for Linux and for Windows, and specialized blades like the IDAA and DataPower.

The IDAA is an interesting computing story that delivers startling performance and is only available for the zEnterprise, a situation IBM makes clear is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.  The IDAA enables the zEnterprise to be extremely cost competitive at BI analytics when put up against long time BI leaders like Teradata and Oracle Exadata.  At some point DancingDinosaur will take a closer look at the IDAA.

And just in case you thought the zEnterprise is going away anytime soon, don’t worry.  The trends are headed in the zEnterprise’s favor. IBM added 62 mainframe clients in 2010, 76 new mainframe clients in 2011, and expects to hit 100 or more in 2012. Remember all the pundits over the years who predicted that the mainframe was a dinosaur heading to extinction? Don’t bet against the zEnterprise.


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