Posts Tagged ‘hybrid computing’

The Future of IBM Lies in the Cloud

March 13, 2014

In her annual letter to stockholders IBM CEO Virginia Rometty made it clear that the world is being forever altered by the explosion of digital data and by the advent of the cloud. So, she intends IBM to “remake the enterprise IT infrastructure for the era of cloud.” This where she is leading IBM.

DancingDinosaur thinks she has it right. But where does that leave this blog, which was built on the System z, Power Systems, and IBM’s enterprise systems? Hmm.

Rometty has an answer for that buried far down in her letter. “We are accelerating the move of our Systems product portfolio—in particular, Power and storage—to growth opportunities and to Linux, following the lead of our successful mainframe business. “

The rapidly emerging imperatives of big data, cloud computing, and mobile/social require enterprise-scale computing in terms of processing power, capacity, availability, security, and all the other ities that have long been the hallmark of the mainframe and IBM’s other enterprise class systems. She goes so far as to emphasize that point:  “Let me be clear—we are not exiting hardware. IBM will remain a leader in high-performance and high-end systems, storage and cognitive computing, and we will continue to invest in R&D for advanced semiconductor technology.”

You can bet that theme will be continued at the upcoming Edge 2014 conference May 19-23 in Las Vegas. The conference will include an Executive program, a Technical program with 550 expert technical sessions across 14 tracks, and a partner program. It’s being billed as an infrastructure innovation event and promises a big storage component too. Expect to see a lot of FlashSystems and XIV, which has a new pay-as-you-go pricing program that will make it easy to get into XIV and scale it fast as you need it. You’ll probably also encounter some other new go-to-market strategies for storage.

As far as getting to the cloud, IBM has been dropping billions to build out about as complete a cloud stack as you can get.  SoftLayer, the key piece, was just the start. BlueMix, an implementation of IBM’s Open Cloud Architecture, leverages Cloud Foundry to enable developers to rapidly build, deploy, and manage their cloud applications while tapping a growing ecosystem of available services and runtime frameworks, many of which are open source. IBM will provide services and runtimes into the ecosystem based on its already extensive and rapidly expanding software portfolio. BlueMix is the IBM PaaS offering that compliments SoftLayer, its IaaS offering. Cloudant, the most recent acquisition, brings database as a service (DBaaS) to the stack. And don’t forget IBM Wave for z/VM, which virtualizes and manages Linux VMs, a critical cloud operation for sure. With this conglomeration of capabilities IBM is poised to offer something cloud-like to just about any organization. Plus, tying WebSphere and its other middleware products to SoftLayer bolsters the cloud stack that much more.

And don’t think IBM is going to stop here. DancingDinosaur expects to see more acquisitions, particularly when it comes to hybrid clouds and what IBM calls systems of engagement. Hybrid clouds, for IBM, link systems of engagement—built on mobile and social technologies where consumers are engaging with organizations—with systems of record, the main workloads of the System z and Power Systems, where data and transactions are processed.

DancingDinosaur intends to be at Edge 2014 where it expects to see IBM detailing a lot of its new infrastructure and demonstrating how to use it. You can register for Edge 2014 here until April 20 and grab a discount.

Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter: @mainframeblog

February 25, 2014

How the 50 Year-Old Mainframe Remains Relevant

The mainframe turns 50 years old this year and the many pundits and experts who predicted it would be long gone by now must be scratching their heads.  Yes, it is still around and has acquired over 260 new accounts just since zEnterprise launch. It also has shipped over 320 hybrid computing units (not to be confused with zBX chassis only) since the zBX was introduced and kicked off hybrid mainframe computing.

As for MIPS, although IBM experienced a MIPS decline last quarter that follows the largest MIPS shipment in mainframe history a year ago resulting in a 2-year CGR of +11%.  (Mainframe sales follow the new product release cycle in a predictable pattern.) IBM brought out the last System z release, the zEC12, faster than the mainframe’s historic release cycle. Let’s hope IBM repeats the quick turnaround with the next release.

Here’s what IBM is doing to keep the mainframe relevant:

  • Delivered steady price/performance improvements with each release. And with entry-level BC-class pricing and the System z Solution Edition programs you can end up with a mainframe system that is as competitive or better than x86-based systems while being more secure and more reliable out of the box.
  • Adopted Linux early, before it had gained the widespread acceptance it has today. Last year over three-quarters of the top 100 enterprises had IFLs installed. This year IBM reports a 31% increase in IFL MIPS. In at least two cases where DancingDinosaur recently interviewed IT managers, Linux on z was instrumental in bringing their shops to the mainframe.
  • Supported for SOA, Java, Web services, and cloud, mobile, and social computing continues to put the System z at the front of the hot trends. It also prominently plays with big data and analytics.  Who ever thought that the mainframe would be interacting with RESTful APIs? Certainly not DancingDinosaur’s computer teacher back in the dark ages.
  • Continued delivery of unprecedented scalability, reliability, and security at a time when the volumes of transactions, data, workloads, and users are skyrocketing.  (IDC predicts millions of apps, billions of users, and trillions of things connected by 2020.)
  • Built a global System z ecosystem of tools and technologies to support cloud, mobile, big data/analytics, social and non-traditional mainframe workloads. This includes acquisitions like SoftLayer and CSL Wave to deliver IBM Wave for z/VM, a simplified and cost effective way to harness the consolidation capabilities of the IBM System z platform along with its ability to host the workloads of tens of thousands of commodity servers. The mainframe today can truly be a fully fledged cloud player.

And that just touches on the mainframe platform advantages. While others boast of virtualization capabilities, the mainframe comes 100% virtualized out of the box with virtualization at every level.  It also comes with a no-fail redundant architecture and built-in networking. 

Hybrid computing is another aspect of the mainframe that organizations are just beginning to tap.  Today’s multi-platform compound workloads are inherently hybrid, and the System z can manage the entire multi-platform workload from a single console.

The mainframe anniversary celebration, called Mainframe50, officially kicks off in April but a report from the Pulse conference suggests that Mainframe50 interest already is ramping up. A report from Pulse 2014 this week suggests IBM jumped the gun by emphasizing how the z provides new ways never before thought possible to innovate while tackling challenges previously out of reach.

Pulse 2014, it turns out, offered 38 sessions on System z topics, of which 27 will feature analysts or IBM clients. These sessions promise to address key opportunities and challenges for today’s mainframe environments and the latest technology solutions for meeting them, including OMEGAMON, System Automation, NetView, GDPS, Workload Automation Tivoli Asset Discovery for z/OS and Cloud.

One session featured analyst Phil Murphy, Vice President and Principal Analyst from Forrester Research, discussing the critical importance of a robust infrastructure in a mixed mainframe/distributed cloud environment—which is probably the future most DancingDinosaur readers face—and how it can help fulfill the promise of value for cloud real time.

Another featured mainframe analyst Dot Alexander from Wintergreen Research who looked at how mainframe shops view executing cloud workloads on System z. The session focused on the opportunities and challenges, private and hybrid cloud workload environments, and the impact of scalability, standards, and security.

But the big celebration is planned for April 8 in NYC. There IBM promises to make new announcements, launch new research projects, and generally focus on the mainframe’s future.  A highlight promises to be Showcase 20, which will focus on 20 breakthrough areas referred to by IBM as engines of progress.  The event promises to be a sellout; you should probably talk to your System z rep if you want to attend. And it won’t stop on April 8. IBM expects to continue the Mainframe50 drumbeat all year with new announcements, deliverables, and initiatives. Already in February alone IBM has made a slew of acquisitions and cloud announcements that will touch every mainframe shop with any cloud interests (which should be every mainframe shop at one point or another).

In coming weeks stay tuned to DancingDinosaur for more on Mainframe50. Also watch this space for details of the upcoming Edge 2014 conference, with an emphasis on infrastructure innovation coming to Las Vegas in May.

Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog

A Maturity Model for the New Mainframe Normal

February 3, 2014

Last week Compuware introduced its new mainframe maturity model designed to address what is emerging as the new mainframe normal. DancingDinosaur played a central role in the creation of this model.

A new mainframe maturity model is needed because the world of the mainframe is changing rapidly.  Did your data center team ever think they would be processing mainframe transactions from mobile phones? Your development team probably never imagined they would be architecting compound workloads across the mainframe and multiple distributed systems running both Windows and Linux? What about the prospect of your mainframe serving up millions or even billions of customer-facing transactions a day?  But that’s the mainframe story today.

Even IBM, the most stalwart of the mainframe vendors, repeats the driving trends—cloud, mobile, social, big data, analytics, Internet of things—like a mantra. As the mainframe celebrates its 50th anniversary year, it is fitting that a new maturity model be introduced because there is, indeed, a new mainframe normal rapidly evolving.

Things certainly are changing in ways most mainframe data center managers wouldn’t have anticipated 10 years ago, probably not even five years ago. Of those, perhaps the most disconcerting change for traditional mainframe shops is the need to accommodate distributed, open systems (systems of engagement) alongside the traditional mainframe environment (systems of record).

Since the rise of distributed systems two decades ago, there has existed both a technical and cultural gap between the mainframe and distributed teams. The emergence of technologies like hybrid computing, middleware, and the cloud have gone far to alleviate the technical gap. The cultural gap is not so amenable to immediate fixes. Still, navigating that divide is no longer optional – it has become a business imperative.  Crossing the gap is what the new maturity model addresses.

Many factors contribute to the gap; the largest of which appears to be that most organizations still approach the mainframe and distributed environments as separate worlds. One large financial company, for example, recently reported that they view the mainframe as simply MQ messages to distributed developers.

The new mainframe maturity model can be used as a guide to bridging both the technical and cultural gaps.  Specifically, the new model defines five levels of maturity. In the process, it incorporates distributed systems alongside the mainframe and recognizes the new workloads, processes and challenges that will be encountered. The five levels are:

  1. Ad-hoc:  The mainframe runs core systems and applications; these represent the traditional mainframe workloads and the green-screen approach to mainframe computing.
  2. Technology-centric:  An advanced mainframe is focused on ever-increasing volumes, higher capacity, and complex workload and transaction processing while keeping a close watch on MIPS consumption.
  3. Internal services-centric:  The focus shifts to mainframe-based services through a service delivery approach that strives to meet internal service level agreements (SLAs).
  4. External services-centric:  Mainframe and non-mainframe systems interoperate through a services approach that encompasses end-user expectations and tracks external SLAs.
  5. Business revenue-centric:  Business needs and the end-user experience are addressed through interoperability with cloud and mobile systems, services- and API-driven interactions, and real-time analytics to support revenue initiatives revolving around complex, multi-platform workloads.

Complicating things is the fact that most IT organizations will likely find themselves straddling different maturity levels. For example, although many have achieved levels 4 and 5 when it comes to technology the IT culture remains at levels 1 or 2. Such disconnects mean IT still faces many obstacles preventing it from reaching optimal levels of service delivery and cost management. And this doesn’t just impact IT; there can be ramifications for the business itself, such as decreased customer satisfaction and slower revenue growth.

DancingDinosaur’s hope is that as the technical cultures come closer through technologies like Java, Linux, SOA, REST, hybrid computing, mobile, and such to allow organizations to begin to close the cultural gap too.

Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter: @mainframeblog

The zEnterprise as a Hybrid Data Center

November 21, 2013

There is no doubt that the zEnterprise enables hybrid computing. Just attach a zBX to it and start plugging in Linux and x86 blades; presto, you’ve got hybrid computing.  You can manage this entire hybrid infrastructure via the Unified Resource Manager.

The zEnterprise also has a sister hybrid computing platform, IBM PureSystems. Here, too, you can add in System x and Linux or even Power and System i and do hybrid computing. You can also manage the hybrid environment through a single console, albeit a different console—the Flex System Manager—and manage this second IBM hybrid platform as a unified environment.  DancingDinosaur has noted the irony of IBM having two different, incompatible hybrid systems; IBM has reassured this blogger several times that it is trying to converge the two. Whenever it happens DancingDinosaur will be the first to report it.

The zEnterprise or even PureSystems as a hybrid computing platform, however, is not the same as a hybrid data center.  Apparently there is no definition of a hybrid data center despite all the talk about hybrid computing, hybrid clouds, and hybrid systems.  As best DancingDinosaur can piece it together, the hybrid data center is multiplatform like the zEnterprise, but it also is multi-location, often using co-location facilities or factory-built containerized data centers (IBM calls them Portable Modular Data Centers, PMDC). More often, however, hybrid data centers are associated with cloud computing as the third of the three flavors of cloud (private, public, hybrid).

Gartner recently described some architecture options for a hybrid data center. In one case you could have a zEnterprise acting as, say, a private cloud using a co-location facility as a DMZ between the private cloud and a public cloud like Amazon. Not sure, however, you would need the DMZ if your private cloud was running on the highly secure zEnterprise but Gartner included it. Go figure.

Hybrid showed up in numerous Enterprise 2013 sessions this past October. You can catch some video highlights from it here. The conference made frequent mention of hybrid in numerous sessions, some noted in previous DancingDinosaur posts, such as Exploring the World of zEnterprise Hybrid: How Does It Work and What’s the Point? The session introduced the Unified Resource Manager and described how it would allow an IT shop to manage a collection of one or more zEnterprise nodes including any optionally attached zBX cabinets as a single logical virtualized system through a Hardware Management Console (HMC). In short, it was about providing a single point of control through which data center personnel can deploy, configure, monitor, manage and maintain the integrated System z and zBX blades based on heterogeneous architectures in a unified manner. But it wasn’t talking about the hybrid enterprise data center described in the previous paragraph.

Similarly, Application Performance Management and Capacity Planning for the IBM zEnterprise Hybrid Workload focused on extending the Unified Resource Manager to goal-oriented performance management for both traditional System z and BladeCenter applications. It was about applying WLM, RMF, and Platform Performance Management to cross-platform hybrid applications. Again, this really wasn’t about the hybrid data center described above.

BTW, plans apparently already are underway for Enterprise 2014. Looks like it will be Oct. 6-10 at the Venetian in Las Vegas. It should be quite an event given that IBM will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the mainframe in 2014.

And there is much more on z hybrid computing and hybrid clouds. The zEnterprise has its own page on cloud computing here, and last month the zEnterprise zBC12 won CRN Tech Innovator Award for the most Innovative cloud solution.  You can also click here to see how a dozen IBM customers used various IBM platforms to build hybrid clouds.

IBM has already used the zEnterprise to consolidate over 30,000 servers around the world for an 84% improvement in data center efficiency and a 50% reduction in power and cooling. This effectively freed $1 billion to spend on innovative new projects that drive business growth across the company. And IBM is about as hybrid a data center as you can find.

Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog

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?

Follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog.

Social Business and Linux on System z at Enterprise 2013

October 17, 2013

The Enterprise 2013 conference next week in Orlando is sold out! However, you can still participate and learn from the session through Livestream, which starts Monday morning (8am ET) with two IBM senior VPs; Tom Rosamilia, followed by Steve Mills. On Tuesday Livestream sessions start at 10:30am ET. Check out the full Livestream schedule here.

Let’s expand on the social business topics to be covered at the conference. Building a Social Environment in an Enterprise Private Cloud looks at the advantages of building a social environment in an on-premise private cloud, exploiting System z where practical. The hybrid System z models seem particularly well suited for this, and the TCO should be quite favorable. Daily Business can Profit from Social Networks for System z looks at how to exploit social on the z to keep current with news and events of importance to the organization and its customers through Twitter and other social networks. Finally, Gaining Competitive Advantage with Social Business separates the social hype from the facts. The session keys in on utilizing social business relationships to help you achieve competitive advantages.

DancingDinosaur has long considered Linux on z as the single most important thing IBM did to save the mainframe from a future as a niche product serving mainly big banks and financial services firms. Today, the mainframe is the center of a hybrid computing world that can do anything business strategists want to do—mobile, cloud, open systems, Linux, Windows. Linux, the key to that, has been slow to catch on, but it is steadily gaining traction. At Enterprise 2013 you can see, to paraphrase a movie title starring Clint Eastwood; The Good, the Great, and the Ugly of Linux on System z.

Linux on System z: Controlling the Proliferating Penguin presents Mike Riggs, Manager of Systems and Database Administration at the Supreme Court of Virginia, sharing his experiences leveraging the power of Linux on System z by utilizing WebSphere, DB2, Oracle, and Java applications in concert with the longstanding success of z/VM, z/VSE, CICS applications, and other platform systems. He will explain how a funds-limited judicial branch of a state government is leveraging all possible resources to manage, grow, and support statewide judicial application systems.

What’s New with Linux on System z provides an overview of Linux on System z. It will show Linux as a very active open source project and offer insight into what makes Linux so special. It also looks at both the latest and as well as upcoming features of the Linux kernel and what these features can do for you.

From there, you can attend the session on Why Linux on System z Saves $$, which will help you build the business case for Linux on z. The presenter, Buzz Woeckener, Director of IT at Nationwide Insurance, will pepper you with facts, disprove some myths, and help you understand why Linux on System z is one of the best values in the marketplace today. DancingDinosaur has written on Nationwide’s Linux on z experience before; it is a great story.

Finally, here’s the ugly: Murphy’s Law Meets VM and Linux on System z. Murphy’s law observes that whatever can go wrong possibly (or probably, depending on your level of pessimism) will go wrong. This can also be the case in some unfortunate Linux on System z and z/VM proof of concepts or improperly configured production systems. Having been called into a number of these situations over the last couple of years, the speaker brings a lot of experience handling these problems. Where some sessions highlight successes, this one will present stories from the battlefield on what it took to get these projects back on track. It will show the mistakes and draw the lessons learned.

Plus there is networking, security, systems management, big data and analytics, development, and more. For those lucky enough to get space, you won’t be at a loss for what to do next. DancingDinosaur will there Sunday through Thursday. If you see me, please feel welcome to introduce yourself.

Enterprise 2013—System z Storage, Hybrid Computing, Social and More

October 10, 2013

The abstract for the Enterprise 2013 System z program runs 43 pages. Haven’t tallied the number of sessions offered but there certainly are enough to keep you busy for the entire conference (Oct. 20-25, in Orlando, register now) and longer.

Just the storage-related sessions are wide ranging, from  DFSM, which DancingDinosaur covered a few weeks back following the SHARE Boston event here, to the IBM Flash portfolio, System z Flash Express, dynamically provisioning Linux on z storage, capacity management, and more. For storage newcomers, there even is a two-part session on System z Storage Basics.

A storage session titled the Evolution of Space Management looks interesting.  After the advent of System Managed Storage (SMS), the mainframe went decades without much change in the landscape of space management processing. Space management consisted of the standard three-tier hierarchy of Primary Level 0 and the two Migration tiers, Migration Level 1 (disk) and Migration Level 2 (tape).This session examines recent advances in both tape and disk technologies that have dramatically changed that landscape and provided new opportunities for managing data on the z. Maybe they will add a level above primary called flash next year. This session will cover how the advances are evolving the space management hierarchy and what to consider when determining which solutions are best for your environment.

IBM has been going hog-wild with flash, the TMS acquisition playing no small part no doubt. Any number of sessions deal with flash storage. This one, IBM’s Flash Portfolio and Futures, seems particularly appealing. It takes a look at how IBM has acquired and improved upon flash technology over what amounts to eight generations technology refinements.  The session will look at how flash will play a major role across not only IBM’s storage products but IBM’s overall solution portfolio. Flash technology is changing the way companies are managing their data today and it is changing the way they understand and manage the economics of technology. This session also will cover how IBM plans to leverage flash in its roadmap moving forward.

Hybrid computing is another phenomenon that has swept over the z in recent years. For that reason this session looks especially interesting, Exploring the World of zEnterprise Hybrid: How Does It Work and What’s the Point? The IBM zEnterprise hybrid system introduces the Unified Resource Manager, allowing an IT shop to manage a collection of one or more zEnterprise nodes, including an optionally attached zBX loaded with blades for different platforms, as a single logical virtualized system through a single mainframe console. The mainframe can now act as the primary point of control through which data center personnel can deploy, configure, monitor, manage, and maintain the integrated System z and zBX blades based on heterogeneous architectures but in a unified manner. It amounts to a new world of blades and virtual servers with the z at the center of it.

Maybe one of the hardest things for traditional z data center managers to get their heads around is social business on the mainframe. But here it is: IBM DevOps Solution: Accelerating the Delivery of Multiplatform Applications looks at social business and mobile along with big data, and cloud technologies as driving the demand for faster approaches to software delivery across all platforms, middleware, and devices. The ultimate goal is to push out more features in each release and get more releases out the door with confidence, while maintaining compliance and quality. To succeed, some cultural, process, and technology gaps must be addressed through tools from Rational.

IBM has even set itself up as a poster child for social business in another session, Social Business and Collaboration at IBM, which features the current deployment within IBM of its social business and collaboration environments. Major core components are currently deployed on System z. The session will look at what IBM is doing and how they do it and the advantages and benefits it experiences.

Next week, the last DancingDinosaur posting before Enterprise 2013 begins will look at some other sessions, including software defined everything and Linux on z.

When DancingDinosaur first started writing about the mainframe over 20 years ago it was a big, powerful (for the time), solid performer that handled a few core tasks, did them remarkably well, and still does so today. At that time even the mainframe’s most ardent supporters didn’t imagine the wide variety of things it does now as can be found at Enterprise 2013.

Please follow DancingDinosaur and its sister blogs on Twitter, @mainframeblog.

Mantissa z86VM Virtualization Leverages IBM zEC12 and z/VM

September 19, 2013

Jim Porell, formerly an IBM Distinguished Engineer with hefty System z credentials, has been pushing the idea of running large numbers of cheap virtualized x86 virtual systems on the zEnterprise for over a year, when DancingDinosaur covered the announcement of his STASH initiative then. Now he is working with Mantissa, known mainly as a provider of mainframe emulation products, on its latest product, z86VM, announced here.

Mantissa z86VM promises to simplify cloud deployment while dramatically reducing virtual image costs by potentially virtualizing thousands of x86 VMs on a zEC12 z/VM partition.  Porell actually isn’t ready to estimate how many until he has done more testing. At this point, all Mantissa is promising is a system that permits you to create virtual x86 machines for use as servers or desktop systems in minutes.

As Porell puts it: existing IBM zEnterprise server customers already have the capacity to run hundreds or thousands of virtual x86 machines. Now he invites DancingDinosaur readers (and anyone else) to try a free version of the z86VM beta software—to become a beta participant, send a request using this form and z86VM Beta as the subject. This will let you try out the latest version and see for yourself. The current beta ships with Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) Linux. SME Server is a CentOS Linux distribution specifically optimized and configured for use as web, file, email, and database servers. It employs a comprehensive browser UI for all management-related tasks.

Specifically Mantissa’s z86VM provides a 32-bit virtual x86 environment which cannot be distinguished by software from real x86 hardware. That means operating systems like Linux for x86 or Windows will run without alteration under IBM z/VM. An important aspect of this virtual operating environment is that no changes are required to move 32-bit x86 operating systems and applications to the z86VM environment. Current test projection modeling shows that up to 50,000 virtual images may be able to operate efficiently on a fully configured zEnterprise server.  But Porell is not quite ready to promise that.

Mantissa hopes to tie z86VM to cloud computing. “Cloud computing, server consolidation, virtual desktops, security, and resilience are all important considerations for customers of the zEnterprise server,” said Gary Dennis, co-Founder, Mantissa, in the beta announcement. “Most x86 virtualization deployments waste 25- 50% of all available hardware capacity.  The z86VM approach can’t do that because there is no real machine,” he add. Actually, there is a real machine underlying the system, currently the zEC12 or, presumably, any other zEnterprise.

Pricing for z86VM when it is released hasn’t been formalized. “My expectation is we will charge per engine, a la zLinux pricing. However, it may be more like z/VM or VMware pricing,” says Porell. The bigger difference is that there should be many more x86 images per core than you’d see with a conventional x86 system. Since the z can run at 100% utilization without fear of failover, Porell expects to squeeze more systems onto each core, which will reduce application and operating system fees where pricing is based on actual cores.

Hybrid computing looms large in Porell and Mantissa’s hopes for z86VM.  For hybrid computing the z86VM can use the same software binary images as other platforms, Porell explains. It should speed the time to deploy those workloads as no new software versions need to be acquired or developed  while providing an ability to further reduce software license costs, environmental costs, operational expense, and complexity, he continues.

In addition, the z/VM hypervisor already is capable of running thousands of virtual system images in a single server. Most of the redundancy necessary for business resilience, fault isolation and disaster recovery is built into the z and the z/VM hypervisor. The z 86VM takes advantage of the z/VM hypervisor to provide the security functionality that isolates one virtual guest from another in such a way that bad behavior by one cannot compromise the execution or data associated with another.

At this point z86VM is looking mostly like a zEnterprise hybrid computing play.  Whether z86VM offers significant benefits beyond what you can do with a hybrid zEnterprise and z/VM will be seen what happens in the beta program, what other business compute needs they address, what they decide with pricing.

Also, hope you will register for Enterprise 2013 in Orlando, Oct 21-25. It will combine the System z and the Power Systems technical universities with an Executive Summit.  The session programs already are out for the System z and Power Systems tracks; registration has already started. Check it out here. DancingDinosaur will be there. In the coming weeks this blog will look more closely intriguing sessions.

BTW–follow DancingDinosaur at its new name on Twitter, @mainframeblog

New zEnterprise Business Class Entry Model—zBC12

July 23, 2013

IBM introduced its new zEnterprise Business Class machine, the equivalent of the z114 for the zEC12, the zEnterprise BC12 (zBC12).  It offers significantly more power than its predecessor but the $75,000 base price hasn’t changed.

The company has been hinting at the arrival of this machine for months (and DancingDinosaur has been passing along those hints as quickly as they came). Of particular interest is that the System z Solution Edition pricing applies to the zBC12. Solution Edition pricing should make the machine quite competitive with x86-based systems, especially when running multiple Linux instances.

IBM isn’t being coy about its intentions to discount this machine. The initial announcement touted a new Linux-only based version of the zBC12, the Enterprise Linux Server (ELS). The ELS includes hardware, the z/VM Hypervisor, and three years of maintenance at a deeply discounted price. Besides over 3,000 Linux applications it includes two new capabilities, ELS for Analytics and Cloud-Ready for Linux on System z, each acting as an onramp for analytics or cloud computing.

DancingDinosaur has been a big fan of the Solution Edition program as the only way to get serious discounts on a mainframe. The big caveat is the constraints IBM puts on the use of the discounted machine. Each Solution Edition program is negotiated so just make sure you fully understand the constraints and all the fine print so you can live with it for several years. Of course, a zBC12 can be used for anything you would use a mainframe although enterprise Linux serving seems  an ideal use.

Besides its faster processor the zBC12 also offers up 156 capacity settings on each model  to choose just the right capacity setting for your needs along with a new pay-as-you-grow approach. When it is integrated with the IBM DB2 Analytics Accelerator, the zBC12 can perform business analytics workloads with10x better price performance and 14 percent lower total cost of acquisition than the closest competitor, according to IBM.

Out of the box the zBC12 specs look good:

  • 4.2 GHz processor designed to deliver up to a 36% performance increase per core to help boost software performance for business-critical workloads
  • Up to six general purpose processors designed to deliver up to 58% more capacity compared to the z114, which had five general purpose processors
  • Up to a 2x increase in available memory (496 GB) compared to the z114 for improved performance of memory-demanding workloads such as DB2, IBM WebSphere, and Linux on System z

The zBC12 comes in two models, the H06 and H13. Both are air cooled, single frame, or support 30 LPARS. The H06 has one processor drawer for 9 processor units. These can be divided between SAPs, CPs, IFLs/ICFs, zIIPs and zAAPs, and 1 IFP.  The Model H113 has two processor drawers to handle 18 processor units. It allows the same mix of processor types but in larger quantities and 2 dedicated spares. There are configurations where the H06 requires the second processor drawer. The entry processing level is 50 MIPS, up from 26 MIPS with the z114 with no change in the base price.

As far as other pricing, the zBC12 follows essentially an extension of the z114 stack pricing with a 27% price/performance improvement over the z114 for specialty engine pricing, which translates in 36% greater performance for the money.  Pricing for maintenance remains the same. Software keeps with the same pricing curve with a 5% discount applied. The price of Flash Express for the zBC12 remains at $125,000.

IBM has provided a straightforward upgrade path from the z10 or zEnterprise to the zBC12 as well as from the zBC12 to the zEC12. It also can be connected to the zBX (Model 003) to seamlessly manage workloads across a hybrid computing environment consisting of multiple architectures (Linux, AIX, and Intel/Windows).

The announcement of the zBC12 was accompanied by a slew of other new z announcements, including the new IBM zEnterprise Analytics System 9710,and native JSON support to bridge the gap between mobile devices and enterprise data and services along with conversion between JSON  and the new CICS Transaction Server Feature Pack for Mobile Extensions V1.0 and DB2 11 for z/OS (ESP).  Plus there is the new z/VM v6.3 and enhancements to the z/OS Management Facility.

As DancingDinosaur noted last week, expect z sales to get a boost in the next quarter or two as organizations choose the new zBC12. With its improved price/performance and low entry pricing and the Solution Edition deal for the zBC12 ELS the z should see a nice bounce.

Next Generation zEnterprise Developers

April 19, 2013

Mainframe development keeps getting more complicated.  The latest complication can be seen in Doug Balog’s reference to mobile and social business on the zEnterprise, reported by DancingDinosaur here a few weeks ago. That is what the next generation of z developers face.

Forget talk about shortages of System z talent due to the retirement of mainframe veterans.  The bigger complication comes from need for non-traditional mainframe development skills required to take advantage mobile and social business as well as other recent areas of interest such as big data and analytics. These areas entail combining new skills like JSON, Atom, Rest, Hadoop, Java, SOA, Linux, hybrid computing along with traditional mainframe development skills like CICS and COBOL, z/VM, SQL, VSAM, and IMS. This combination is next to impossible to find in one individual. Even assembling a coherent team encompassing all those skills presents a serious challenge.

The mainframe industry has been scrambling to address this in various ways.  CA Technologies added GUI to its various tools and BMC has similarly modernized its various management and DB2 tools. IBM, of course, has been steadily bolstering the Rational RDz tool set.   RDz is a z/OS Eclipse-based software IDE.  RDz streamlines and refactors z/OS development processes into structured analysis, editing, and testing operations with modern GUI tools, wizards, and menus that, IBM notes, are perfect for new-to the-mainframe twenty- and thirty-something developers, the next generation of z developers.

Compuware brings its mainframe workbench, described as a modernized interactive developer environment that introduces a new graphical user interface for managing mainframe application development activities.  The interactive toolset addresses every phase of the application lifecycle.

Most recently, Micro Focus announced the release of its new Enterprise Developer for IBM zEnterprise.  The product enables customers to optimize all aspects of mainframe application delivery and promises to drive down costs, increase productivity, and accelerate innovation. Specifically, it enables both on- and off-mainframe development, the latter without consuming mainframe resources, to provide a flexible approach to the delivery of new business functions. In addition, it allows full and flexible customization of the IDE to support unique development processes and provides deep integration into mainframe configuration management and tooling for a more comprehensive development environment. It also boasts of improved application quality with measurable improvement in delivery times.  These capabilities together promise faster developer adoption.

Said Greg Lotko, Vice President and Business Line Executive, IBM System z, about the new Micro Focus offering:  We are continually working with our technology partners to help our clients maximize the value in their IBM mainframes, and this latest innovation from Micro Focus is a great example of that commitment.

Behind all of this development innovation is an industry effort to cultivate the next generation of mainframe developers. Using a combination of trusted technology (COBOL and mainframe) and new innovation (zEnterprise, hybrid computing, expert systems, and Eclipse), these new developers; having been raised on GUI and mobile and social, can leverage what they learned growing up to build the multi-platform, multi-device mainframe applications that organizations will need going forward.

As these people come on board as mainframe-enabled developers organizations will have more confidence in continuing to invest in their mainframe software assets, which currently amount to an estimated 200-300 billion lines of source code and may even be growing as mainframes are added in developing markets, considered a growth market by IBM.  It only makes sense to leverage this proven code base than try to replace it.

This was confirmed in a CA Technologies survey of mainframe users a year ago, which found that 1) the mainframe is playing an increasingly strategic role in managing the evolving needs of the enterprise; 2) the machine is viewed as an enabler of innovation as big data and cloud computing transform the face of enterprise IT—now add mobile; and 3) companies are seeking candidates with cross-disciplinary skill sets to fill critical mainframe workforce needs in the new enterprise IT thinking.

Similarly, a recent study by the Standish Group showed that 70 percent of CIOs saw their organizations’ mainframes as having a central and strategic role in their overall business success.  Using the new tools noted above organizations can maximize the value of the mainframe asset and cultivate the next generation mainframe developers.


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