Posts Tagged ‘Linix on z’

IBM Enterprise2014 to Drive Advanced Mainframe Capabilities

August 27, 2014

The summer is winding down, and IBM Enterprise2014 (October 6-10, 2014 at the Venetian in Las Vegas, October 6-10, 2014 at the Venetian in Las Vegas) will be here in a little over a month.  It combines the IBM System z Technical University and the IBM Power Systems Technical University at one North American location. The advanced capabilities being featured at Enterprise2014 include: cloud, big data, and much more. Let’s look at a sampling of the z-oriented cloud and big data sessions. Subsequent posts will look at POWER and other topics.

The event also will include announcing the winner of the Mainframe Mobile App Throwdown, details here. Mobile is hot and poised to drive a lot of activity through the mainframe. The next generation of mobile apps will need to integrate with core applications running on the mainframe. DancingDinosaur readers know how to do that. Top prize for the Throwdown is an iPad, a pass to the IBM Enterprise2014 conference in Las Vegas, and even a week with IBM experts to help turn the app from a concept to reality. DancingDinosaur will be there to publicize the winners here. But the competition closes Sept. 17 so sign up soon.

For Mainframe Mobile App Throwdown ideas check out the session details at Enterprise2014. For example, Taking Analytics Mobile with DB2 Web Query and More! by Doug Mack digs into mobile features added to DB2 Web Query. He discusses how to sync a mobile device up with your favorite dashboards, or use the mobile app to organize and access reports offline. Leverage REST-based Web Services and application extensions to customize the user interface for reporting functions or schedule the reports to run in the background.

Now, let’s look at a sampling of the cloud and big data sessions.

How Companies Are Using IBM System z for Cloud—Fehmina Merchant describes how organizations are building secure and robust private clouds on System z to deliver their critical IT services with agility and at lower costs.  The session will examine the unique capabilities of zEnterprise as a platform for private cloud computing, in effect providing the ultimate in virtualization, security, scalability and reliability. It also will cover how the newest IBM SmartCloud technologies can automate and optimize the deployment and management of services in the cloud. In addition, the session will offer some specific real-life examples and use-cases to illustrate how a private cloud built on zEnterprise and SmartCloud provide flexible IT service delivery at the lowest cost. The session will end with a live demonstrations of the latest IBM SmartCloud tools.

Should mainframe shops even care about cloud computing? That’s a question DancingDinosaur gets asked frequently. Glenn Anderson answers it in zEnterprise—Cutting Through the Hype: Straight Talk About the Mainframe and Cloud Computing. In this session he promises to explain why the cloud is relevant to a System z enterprise and helps z data center managers cut through the marketing hype.

For zLinux there is The Elephant on the Mainframe—Using Hadoop to Analyze IBM System z Data by Christopher Spaight. He describes the zEnterprise portfolio as including a rich set of options for the analysis of structured, relational data. But what, he asks, if the business needs to analyze data that is unstructured or semi-structured or a mix of relational and non-relational records? Many are looking to Hadoop in these situations. This session lays out the mainframer’s options for using Hadoop both on and off platform, and walks through several use cases for when it makes sense to use Hadoop. BTW, Hadoop on z is called zDoop.

Finally, HDFS, Hive and All That Big Data “Stuff” for IBM System z by Karen Durward looks at how the System z participates in the world of HDFS, Hive and more Big Data stuff. This session focuses on not only why z/OS data should be integrated into a Big Data environment but the various ways to do it. She will describe the latest on z/OS data integration with Big Data, Linux on System z as a Big Data platform, and more.

Then, when you have absorbed all the technology you can enjoy three evenings of live performances: 2 country rock groups, Delta Rae and The Wild Feathers and then, Rock of Ages. Check ‘em out here.

Alan Radding is DancingDinosaur. Look for me at Enterprise2014. You can follow this blog and more on Twitter, @mainframeblog. Find Alan Radding on

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.

zEnterprise vs. Intel Server Farms

May 17, 2013

How many Intel x86 servers do you need to match the performance of a zEnterprise and at what cost for a given workload? That is the central question every IT manager has to answer.

It is a question that deserves some thought and analysis. Yet often IT managers jump to their decision based on series of gut assumptions that on close analysis are wrong. And the resulting decision more often than not is for the Intel server although an honest assessment of the data in many instances should point the other way. DancingDinosaur has periodically looks at comparative assessments done by IBM. You can find a previous one, lessons from Eagle studies, here.

 The first assumption is that the Intel server is cheaper. But is it? IBM benchmarked a database workload on SQL Server running on Intel x86 and compared it to DB2 on z/OS.  To support 23,000 users, the Intel system required 128 database cores on four HP servers.  The hardware cost $0.34 million and the software cost $1.64 million for a 3-year TCA of $1.98 million. The DB2 system required just 5 cores at a hardware/software combined 3-year TCA of $1.4 million

What should have killed the Intel deal was the software cost, which has to be licensed based on the number of cores. Sure, the commodity hardware was cheap, but the cost of the database licensing drove up the Intel cost. Do IT managers wonder why they need so many Intel cores to support the same number of users they can support with far fewer z cores? Obviously many don’t.

Another area many IT managers overlook is I/O performance and its associated costs. This becomes particularly important as an organization deploys virtual machines.  Increasing the I/O demand on an Intel system uses more of the x86 core for I/O processing, effectively reducing the number of virtual machines that can be deployed per server and raising hardware costs.

The zEnterprise handles I/O differently. It provides 4-16 dedicated system assist processors for the offloading of I/O requests and an I/O subsystem bus speed of 8 GBps.

The z also does well with z/VM for Linux guest workloads. In this case IBM tested three OLTP database production workloads (4 server nodes per cluster), each supporting 6,000 trans/sec, Oracle Enterprise Edition, and Oracle Real Application Cluster (RAC) running on 12 HP DL580 servers (192 cores). This was compared to three Oracle RAC clusters of 4 nodes per cluster with each node as a Linux guest under z/VM . The zEC12 had 27 IFLs. Here the Oracle HP system cost $13.2 million, about twice as much as on the zEC12, $5.7 million. Again, the biggest cost savings came from the need for fewer Oracle licenses due to fewer cores.

The z also does beats Intel servers when running mixed high- and low- priority workloads on the same box. In one example, IBM compared high priority online banking transaction workloads with low priority discretionary workloads.  The workloads running across 3 Intel servers with 40 cores each (120 cores total) cost $13.7 million compared to z/VM on an zEC12 running 32 IFLs, which cost $5.77 million (58% less).

Another comparison demonstrates that core proliferation between Intel and the z is the killer. One large workload test required sixteen 32-way HP Superdome App. Production/Dev/ Test servers and eight 48-way HP Superdome DB Production/Dev/Test for a total of 896 cores. The 5-year TCA came to $180 million. The comparable workload running on a zEC12 41-way production/dev/test system used 41 general purpose processors (38,270 MIPS) with a 5-year TCA of $111 million.

When you look at the things a z can do to keep concurrent operations running that Intel cannot you’d hope non-mainframe IT managers might start to worry. For example, the z handles core sparing transparently; Intel must bring the server down.  The z handles microcode updates while running; Intel can update OS-level drivers but not firmware drivers. Similarly, the z handles memory and bus adapter replacements while running; Intel servers must be brought down to replace either.

Not sure what it will take for the current generation of IT managers to look beyond Intel. Maybe a new business class version of the zEC12 at a stunningly low price. You tell me.

BTW; are you planning to attend IBM Edge 2013 in Las Vegas, Jun 10-14? There will be much there to keep enterprise data center managers occupied.  Overall, IBM Edge 2013 will offer over 140 storage sessions, over 50 PureSystems sessions, more than 50 client case studies, and sessions on big data and analytics along with a full cloud track.  Look for me in the Social Media Lounge at the conference and in the sessions.  You can follow me on Twitter for conference updates@Writer1225.  I’ll be using hashtag #IBMEdge to post live Twitter comments from the conference.

Lessons from IBM Eagle- zEnterprise TCO Analyses

March 18, 2013

Lessons from IBM Eagle-IBM Systems z  TCO Analyses

A company running an obsolete z890 2-way machine with what amounted to 0.88 processors (332 MIPS) planned a migration to a distributed system consisted of 36 distributed UNIX servers. The production workload consisted of applications, database, testing, development, security, and more.  Five years later, the company was running the same in the 36-server multi-core (41x more cores than the z890) distributed environment only its 4-yearTCO went from $4.9 million to $17.9 million based on an IBM Eagle study.  The lesson, the Eagle team notes: cores drive platform costs in distributed systems.

Then there is the case of a 3500 MIPS shop which budgeted $10 million for a 1-year migration to a distributed environment. Eighteen months into the project, already 6 months late, the company had spent $25 million and only managed to offload 350 MIPS. In addition, it had to increase staff to cover the  over-run, implement steps to replace mainframe automation, had to acquire additional distributed capacity over the initial prediction (to support only 10% of total MIPS offloaded), and had to extend the dual-running period at even more cost due to the schedule overrun. Not surprisingly, the executive sponsor is gone.

If the goal of a migration to the distributed environment is cost savings, the IBM Eagle team has concluded after 3 years of doing such analyses, most migrations are a failure. Read the Eagle FAQ here.

The Eagle TCO team was formed in 2007 and since then reports completing over 300 user studies.  Often its studies are used to determine the best platform among IBM’s various choices for a given set of workloads, usually as part of a Fit for Purpose. In other cases, the Eagle analysis is aimed at enabling a System z shop to avoid a migration to a distributed platform. It also could be used to secure a new opportunity for the z. Since 2007, the team reports that its TCO studies secured wins amounting to over $1.6 billion in revenue.

Along the way, the Eagle team has learned a few lessons.  For example:  re-hosting projects tend to be larger than anticipated. The typical one-year projection will likely turn into a two- or three-year project.

The Eagle team also offers the following tips, which can help existing z shops that aren’t necessarily looking to migrate but just want to minimize costs:

  • Update hardware and software; for example one bank upgraded from z/OS 1.6 to 1.8 and reduced each LPAR’s MIPS by 5% (monthly software cost savings paid for the upgrade almost immediately)
  • Take advantage of sub-capacity, which may produce free workloads
  • Consolidate System z Linux, which invariably saves money; many IT people don’t realize how many Linux virtual servers can run on a z core. (A debate raging on LinkedIn focused on how many virtual instances can run on an IFL with quite a few suggesting a max of 20. The official IBM figure:  consolidate up to 60 distributed cores or more on a single System z core, thousands on a single footprint; a single System z core = an IFL.)
  • Changing the database can impact capacity requirements and therefore costs
  • Workloads amenable to specialty processors, like the IFL, zIIP, and zAAP, reduce mainframe costs through lower cost/MIPS and fewer general processor cycles
  • Consider the  System z Solution Edition (DancingDinosaur has long viewed the Solution Edition program as the best System z  deal going although you absolutely must be able to operate within the strict usage constraints the deal imposes.)

The Eagle team also suggests other things to consider, especially when the initial cost of a distributed platform looks attractive to management. To begin the System z responds flexibly to unforeseen business events; a distributed system may have to be augmented or the deployment re-architected, both of which drive up cost and slow responsiveness.  Also, the cost of adding incremental workloads to System z is less than linear. Similarly, the cost of administrative labor is lower on System z, and the System z cost per unit of work is much lower than with distributed systems.

DancingDinosaur generally is skeptical of TCO analyses from vendors. To be useful the analysis needs context, technical details (components, release levels, and prices), and specific verifiable quantitative results.  In addition, there are soft costs that must be considered.  In the end, the lowest acquisition cost or even the lowest TCO isn’t necessarily the best platform choice for a given situation or workload. Determining the right platform requires both quantifiable analysis and judgment.

zEC12 for Social Business

March 8, 2013

Given Doug Balog’s comments a couple of weeks ago and reported by DancingDinosaur here it should be no surprise that alongside mobile another high priority non-traditional System z workload would be social business. Of the two, mobile and social, the biggest hurdle for mainframe data center managers to get their heads around may be social, which conjures up images chatty teens.

There are, however, serious business use cases for social, starting with collaboration. And as good a platform as any, maybe better than some even, is the hybrid zEnterprise, particularly the zEC12.  When the lower cost version arrives later this year as expected social business on the z will make that much more sense where cost is an issue.  Those chatty teens, in fact, point to another use case for social business—the ability to galvanize disparate and widespread groups of people into taking action, such as coming out for a product launch event.

What makes the zEC12 an appealing platform for social business is its hybrid computing capabilities through the zBX, its solid security, and its ability to handle multiple diverse workloads at the same time. IBM’s PureSystems, the industry’s other hybrid computing platform, may be an almost equally attractive candidate for social business albeit minus the sheer power and other virtues of the zEnterprise.

There is no doubt that IBM is enamored of the cloud, mobile, social, and big data—the last three clearly non-traditional z workloads. In an announcement at the end of February on cloud-based analytics and mobile initiatives for its global ecosystem the company was quick to trumpet the latest IDC projection on the topic: the IT industry has been transitioning to a new era of computing built on mobile, cloud services, social networking and big data analytics. In 2013, spending will exceed $2.1 trillion, driven by double-digit growth in mobile, cloud, big data and social technologies …

Balog was clearly in synch with industry trends when he began talking up non-traditional workloads for z a few weeks back, including mobile, social, and analytics workloads. The February announcement focused mainly on the Power, PureSystems, and System x platforms but it could just as well been referencing the zEnterprise too.

For social business, collaboration probably will be the first non-traditional social workload to gain traction on the zEnterprise followed closely by customer service.  This blogger has been writing about collaboration in the form of Notes groupware going back to the days of Lotus Development.  Today, Notes has become one of the mainstays of the IBM social business and collaboration toolset in the form of IBM Connections, which the zEnterprise supports through Linux on z and hybrid computing. Now IBM is talking about the next phase of collaboration. It will be driven by social software that enables a smarter workforce and delivers an enhanced customer experience.

For the zEnterprise the key is IBM Collaboration Software that empowers people to connect, collaborate, and innovate while optimizing the way they work. Linux on System z combines the comprehensive collaboration environment with the power of the IBM System z. Lotus Domino on Linux for System z, for instance, has matured into a powerful mail and collaboration platform. IBM reports it can easily scale to support over 10,000 production users on a single System z while reducing operational complexity through System z virtualization and ensuring security.  Meanwhile, Domino server-to-server communications run at memory speed, and admins have a single point of management when clustering within the same zEnterprise server.  In fact, they can manage the entire hybrid computing environment through the Unified Resource Manager.

The zEnterprise plays the role of the underlying social business hardware platform, the place where data resides and is secure and where applications ranging from the capabilities in IBM Connections to messaging, real-time collaboration, analytics, social and web content management, and portals run as an integrated, unified infrastructure.  Alongside your usual CICS and production applications you soon might run applications like Trilog for social project management or Bunchball for gamification, maybe even among the datacenter IT staff to spur it to new levels of efficiency.

For social business, IBM described 2011 as a year of exploration, experimentation, and in some cases innovation.  Both small and large organizations in a variety of verticals globally began to realize the power of bringing social behaviors, processes and platforms behind the firewall. According to a 2011 AIIM survey, over 50% of organizations considered social business to be either an imperative or significant to their business goals.

In 2013, social business will be much bigger still, driven by double-digit growth in mobile, cloud, big data and social technologies. Although these may be non-traditional mainframe workloads z shops need to embrace them or risk becoming irrelevant.

System z Application Modernization

December 10, 2012

People still complain about how they are held back by old green-screen mainframe applications. It’s not the underlying business logic or application performance they usually are complaining about—that apparently remains rock solid and relevant and has been, in some cases, for decades—but the user interface. Granted, 3270 apps are clunky to use and require plowing through cumbersome screen sequences to complete even a simple task and scream for modernization but they can be modernized through CICS.

Another complaint is that the applications are difficult to change, especially now when organizations want to provide access to mainframe logic and data to users with smartphones or tablets. The question then is what degree of modernization: a pretty GUI facelift or something more structural or maybe a migration to a new platform.  In the age of IBM hybrid computing, you actually have a lot more options than you did even a year ago.

IBM, mainly through the Rational Software group, offers a variety of ways to modernize z applications. You can start with the System z tools here. They enable you to develop mainframe-based applications in COBOL, PL/I, Assembler, C/C++, and Java, as well as workstation-based applications in COBOL, PL/I, and Java.

WebSphere, the app server, is another way to modernize z apps using Java and J2EE. IBM Rational Application Developer for WebSphere accelerates the development and deployment of not only Java, Java EE, Web 2.0 but mobile, portal, and service-oriented architecture (SOA) applications by providing integrated tools for development, testing, profiling, and delivery of applications. Recent upgrades to CICS also make SOA-based modernization even more appealing with support for some of the latest goodies like Atom feeds, RESTful interfaces, and more.

For several years DancingDinosaur has been touting SOA as the most direct way to modernize and repurpose mainframe logic and data. IBM Rational Developer for SOA Construction enables you to create and maintain RPG and COBOL applications as well as modernize them with a variety of techniques using IBM HATS. IBM’s developerWorks has the latest on SOA and web services. Ball State University has been using SOA to modernize its z applications for several years. For example, the school made the critical student schedule app, a CICS system, available to students anywhere, anytime, from any device.  You can read Independent Assessment’s case study here.

Since social business promises to be the next thing, you can develop social business applications through Linux on z, either Red Hat or SUSE, using IBM Connections and WebSphere.  Social business will become of interest to z shops as companies begin collecting social sentiment data on the z and want to analyze it fast.

System z shops actually have been doing some of this for a while.  IBM reports an ISV seeking to increase efficiency and improve time to market for its z software products took advantage of the Metal C feature of the IBM z/OS XL C/C++ compiler to enable its programmers to write code in the C syntax and leverage advanced optimization technology in the z/OS XL C/C++ compiler. The IBM compiler’s Metal C feature cut development time by up to 66% while the company capitalized on C programming skills.

Even IBM reports its CICS dev team tapped IBM Rational Team Concert and IBM Rational Developer for System z software to convert its product development cycle from the existing waterfall development processes to agile development methods. The team used the Rational products to create a highly configurable, end-to-end integrated development environment. Adopting an agile approach and using IBM Rational software has helped the team reduce the amount of preparation required for status meetings by 75% and improved the efficiency of status meetings, decreasing meeting times by 33%. Anything that shortens meetings is worth its weight in gold.

The point is that z shops can do all the sexy app dev stuff—Java, cloud, social, mobile, agile, SOA—to produce richer, more flexible apps faster. And do so without abandoning the z or eating its considerable investment in the mainframe and still bring the z’s compelling virtues it brings to the party.

Linux on System z Update

August 27, 2012

It has taken a decade but Linux has finally firmly established itself in the mainframe world. As recently as 2Q 2012, IBM was reporting two-thirds of its top 100 customers had deployed IFLs, the assist processor for running Linux on the mainframe. Overall, one-third of its System z customers have deployed IFLs. Regardless of whether you are running Linux on the z today or not, Linux on z along with Java saved the mainframe from becoming just another niche technology instead of the versatile core enterprise platform it is today.

SUSE Linux Enterprise is the dominant version on Linux on the mainframe.  SUSE now is owned by Attachmate, which says it will runs it as an independent business unit to ensure it continues to focus on the benefits of open source.  SUSE has about 65% of the mainframe Linux market. Ubuntu and Fedora have negligible presence among mainframe Linux.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) holds most of the remainder on the mainframe Linux market.  Red Hat also offers Fedora, another Linux distribution intended primarily for individuals. After making steady inroads into SUSE’s mainframe Linux market share, progress appears to have slowed in recent months. At its annual Red Hat Summit last June the company celebrated crossing the $1 billion annual revenue threshold, a major achievement for any organization but especially for one built around an open source product.  The Red Hat event returns to Boston in 2013, June 11-14.

The Red Hat gathering  focused on the current hot IT issues—cloud, mobility, and cloud storage—but the mainframe was noticeably  absent. There has been some shifting of responsibilities among Red Hat personnel regarding the mainframe, but DancingDinosaur has been told it remains an active initiative. DancingDinosaur believes RHEL on the mainframe can certainly play an integral role in driving RHEL adoption throughout the enterprise, especially as it spreads through IBM’s various hybrid computing and cloud initiatives. And having two active Linux on z providers is good for mainframe computing.

This coming fall marks the first SUSECon event, something SUSE intends to make into an annual event. Planned for Orlando FL, Sept. 18-21, the event already is promoting Doug Balog, general manager, IBM System z, as a keynote. Balog is responsible for IBM’s worldwide System z server business. The conference promises to address enterprise Linux in the data center, cloud technology and infrastructure, and Linux systems management; basically what you’d expect.

In the meantime, SUSE released the second Service Pack for SUSE Linux Enterprise 11, which includes advanced exploitation of the latest IBM zEnterprise hardware, improved systems management, increased performance, and better problem analysis and resolution.  For example, new support for SSD makes it transparent to the DASD device driver, meaning no change required to use SSD

In terms of Linux functionality on the mainframe users see little differentiation between SUSE and RHEL from a product functionality standpoint. Makes sense since both are based on the Linux open source kernel. DancingDinosaur has profiled mainframe shops using each distribution. The choice often comes down to familiarity, services, and vendor attention to the customer. As hybrid computing gains traction among mainframe and Power shops and eventually PureSystems shops, however, the vendor—SUSE or Red Hat—that best addresses these new optimized multi-platform environments may gain an advantage.

For now, distinctions are minimal. A leading insurance company reports that it ended up using both distributions on its mainframe, starting first with Red Hat and then switching to SUSE and, a few years later, switching back to Red Hat.  As the project manager noted: “Either one works fine; you simply have to consider if your company already has a relationship with one of the vendors, your workload requirements, and any cost differences for code and support.” You also need to consider vendor readiness to support future initiatives like cloud, hybrid computing, mobile, and social business.

But changes are coming fast. IBM is inviting the industry to tomorrow’s virtual announcement of what it bills as the next generation zEnterprise system. Check it out.  DancingDinosaur will cover it in the next post.

PureSystems Joins zEnterprise Hybrid Family

May 8, 2012

A few weeks ago, DancingDinosaur noted that IBM’s new PureSystems was a natural fit for the zEnterprise and hybrid computing, click here. In a later briefing, IBM essentially said as much: Clients can connect IBM zEnterprise and IBM PureSystems (via Ethernet) to gain benefits of simplified management and lower IT infrastructure costs for all workloads. That’s the hybrid computing promise.

The zEnterprise with the zBX runs z/OS, AIX, Linux, and Windows. PureSystems runs AIX, i/OS, Linux and Windows. Between the two, you cover IBM’s primary platforms. The question becomes which workload to run where.

IBM’s simple answer: when data or applications exist on System z and you desire zEnterprise governance go with the zEnterprise-zBX environment populated with the appropriate blades. However, when data and applications run on a combination of Power and System x platforms, go with PureSystems.

On its website, IBM explains the choice between zBX or the new IBM PureSystems for hybrid computing: If you have a workload that traditionally ran on a distributed system, and the work spans System z and AIX, Linux, or Windows, then the zEnterprise with zBX is still the best choice. The zBX delivers the value proposition of tight integration for these hybrid workloads using the management functions of the Unified Resource Manager (zManager).

Or you can opt for PureSystems if you find you have a hybrid workload and don’t desire the governance and tight integration with System z. You still can connect the PureSystems device to the zEnterprise via your existing Ethernet network. Tivoli products can provide the integration of business processes.

Of course, if you have the zEnterprise and add PureSystems, you end up with two hybrid management tools, the Unified Resource Manager for zEnterprise and the Flex System Manager with PureSystems, for what should be one hybrid environment. Ooops, this undermines the promised management efficiency of hybrid computing. IBM promises to address this in the future through tighter integration of both systems.

The choice of a hybrid computing environment, given that most z shops already have multiple platforms, is not straightforward.  Pricing and workload performance have to be considered. For example, does a PowerLinux blade as a PureSystems component deliver better price/performance than Linux running as an IFL on z?  Similarly, where should Windows workloads run, on an Hx5 blade in the zBX or on a PureSystems device? At this point, there’s not enough pricing and performance data to decide. It may come down to scalability.

IBM, however, has been steadily improving hybrid computing on the z. It has enabled programmatic access to the zManager, expanded internal network communication between the zEnterprise and the zBX, and added support for virtual storage management.  Looking ahead, IBM already is planning zBX support for the next generation z and promises to more tightly integrate the zEnterprise with PureSystems. The zEnterprise, zBX, and hybrid computing apparently will be around for a while.

Finally, take note: on April 9, DancingDinosaur covered mainframe storage sessions being planned for the upcoming IBM Edge conference (June 4-8, Orlando).  Now there is the chance to win a free pass (value $2000). This giveaway is for one pass and is sponsored by The Storage Community. The giveaway is only open to US residents. State, local and federal government employees are not eligible.  To access the IBM Technical Edge2012 Conference Sweepstakes: click here for a chance to enter the raffle for a free conference pass.

EUROCONTROL Adopts zEnterprise Hybrid Computing

January 3, 2012

 Since IBM introduced hybrid computing and the zEnterprise in 2010, adoption has been slow, to say the least. In November IBM announced a couple of new hybrid computing users.

At a recent analyst briefing, IBM reported about 80 zBX sales. Given the thousands of active mainframe shops in the world this represents very slow adoption at best. IBM managers insist adoption takes time, and they point to Linux on z, which took 10 years to surpass adoption by one-third of the mainframe shops. (BTW, DancingDinosaur has long argued that Linux saved the mainframe.)

The comparison to Linux on z is valid. And like Linux on z, hybrid computing raises a number of cultural, organizational, and political issues for enterprise IT. Nobody wants to trigger platform turf war.

DancingDinosaur has been talking with data center managers about zBX adoption since it was introduced. For some, the issue is cost. For others, the issue is the lack of a compelling use case.

EUROCONTROL, the European air traffic control organization, has found a convincing reason for zEnterprise hybrid computing in cost efficiency and performance. “I want to run each application where we get the lowest cost and the best performance,” says Huub Meertens, head of the Support Engineering Section of EUROCONTROL, the European air traffic management organization located at Maastricht, The Netherlands. The organization runs a mix of System z, RISC, and x86 servers.

The organization had assembled what it considered an effective platform for its applications and tools to control the air traffic in the Benelux and north-west Germany area. The organization divided its workloads into mission-critical air traffic control and administrative and support systems and began a consolidation effort. The administrative systems, specifically Linux systems, were the target for the initial consolidation phase.

An in-depth study focusing on reliability, functionality, flexibility, migration, management and cost of ownership showed that the heterogeneous and fully virtual zEnterprise hybrid environment would be the best fit. This option scored particularly well in terms of reliability, flexibility, management, and cost.

The new environment would consolidate six mainframes and 20 RISC servers down to three IBM System z servers running Linux. The IT group deployed the z196, zBX, 6 x-blades, and 1 p-blade. IBM handled the initial installation but the EUROCONTROL team handled the linking of the zEnterprise to its network. The zBX simply extended their network and immediately became a part of it. They turned on the Unified Resource Manager, which was a primary reason they went the hybrid route.

The ability to manage the consolidated environment from one console already has proven advantageous. In a cost comparison of multiple options, a virtualized x86 option and the fully virtualized hybrid platform running x86 and zEnterprise, turned out to have comparable costs when running 60 Linux instances. The new zEnterprise hybrid environment (z196, zBX, x-blades) running 100 Linux instances, however, delivers more than a 20% cost advantage. And, the more apps they run, Meertens concluded, the greater the zEnterprise advantage. Also, the fully virtualized environment is proving to be more flexible and better at meeting their requirements for safety, capacity, availability, floor space, and energy usage at minimized costs.

Meertens also reports that the HX5 blades the organization deploys achieve the same performance in the zBX as they do in a stand-alone Blade Center.  Their zEnterprise environment currently runs only Linux applications. Previously the Linux apps, mainly Oracle, ran on z10 with Linux engines and on distributed Intel servers.  At that time the workload performance for Oracle apps was better on the Intel platform, but the Oracle licensing structure was more advantageous running on Linux on System z. Today, the Oracle apps on the z196 outperform the Intel blade, Meertens reports.

All EUROCONTROL’S Windows workloads currently run on conventional Windows servers with VMware. In 1Q 2012 the organization plans to pilot Windows on x86 blades in the zBX.

Watch Mainframe Executive (March/April issue) for a more detailed piece on the EUROCONTROL experience. DancingDinosaur will continue to follow the Windows HX5 blade pilot.

New IBM z114 Reduces Mainframe TCA

July 12, 2011

IBM introduced its newest mainframe in the zEnterprise family, the z114, the zEnterprise equivalent of a z10 BC. With the z114 IBM can now deliver a more compelling total cost of acquisition (TCA) case. The z114 comes with a $75,000 entry price, 25% less than the z10 BC entry price while delivering 18% more performance per core. At this price, it can begin to compete with commodity high end servers on a TCA basis, especially if it is bundled with discount programs like IBM’s System z Solution Editions and unpublicized deals from IBM Global Finance.

First, the specs, speeds, and feeds:  the z114 is available in two models; a single-drawer model, the M05, and a two-drawer model, the M10, which offers additional capacity for I/O and coupling expansion and/or more specialty engines. It comes with up to 10 configurable cores, which can be designated as general purpose or specialty engine (zIIP, zAAP, IFL, ICF) or used as spares. The M10 also allows two dedicated spares as well, a first for a low end mainframe.

Like the z196, the z114 uses a superscalar design that runs at 3.8 GHz, an improved cache structure, a new out-of-order execution sequence, and over 100 new hardware instructions that deliver better per-thread performance, especially for DB2, WebSphere and Linux workloads. For CPU intensive workloads, additional gains of up to 25% can be achieved via multiple compiler level improvements. None of this, however, is technically new to the zEnterprise. The base z114 starts at 26 MIPS but can scale to over 3100 MIPS across five central processors plus the additional capacity provided by its specialty engines.

The z114 mainly will be a consolidation play. IBM calculates that workloads from as many as 300 competitive servers can be consolidated onto a single z114. It will become the key offering as IBM pursues competitive wins against HP and Oracle/Sun, ripe targets these days. IBM figures the z114 can consolidate workloads from 40 Oracle server cores using just three processors running Linux. And compared to the Oracle servers IBM estimates the new z114 will cost 80% less. Similarly, IBM figures that a fully configured z114 running Linux on z can create and maintain a Linux virtual server for approximately $500 per year.

As a consolidation play, the zEnterprise System will get even more interesting later this year when x blades supporting Windows become available. Depending on the pricing, the z114 could become a Windows consolidation play too.

As part of the zEnterprise family, the z114 connects to the zBX where it can manage workloads running on POWER7-based blades as well as theIBM Smart Analytics Optimizer and IBM WebSphere DataPower for integrating web-based workloads. The zBX can handle up to 112 blades, which can be mixed and matched within the same zBX chassis. The maximum number of blades varies depending on the type of blades selected: 112 Power blades but only 28  System x HX5 or DataPower blades or 56 Smart Analytics Optimizer blades. In additionIBM also promises support for Microsoft Windows on select System x server blades soon.

To drive competitive TCA, IBM clearly is ready to make deals. For example, IBM also has lowered software costs to deliver the same capacity for 5%-18% less through a revised Advanced Workload License Charges (AWLC) pricing schedule. A new processor value unit (PVU) rating on IFLs can lower Linux costs as much as 48%. Some prices, however, may bump up when new pricing takes effect in January 2012.

The best deal is the System z Solution Edition Program which DancingDinosaur has written about here and here.  It bundles System z hardware, software, middleware, and three years of maintenance into a deeply discounted package price. Initial System Editions for the z114 will be WebSphere, Linux, and probably SAP. You also can expect what IBM refers to as snap-ons that provide discounted optional service components to the existing base system. Expect these initially for the IBM Enterprise Linux Server. Cloud and Smarter Planet offerings also may include snap-ons. Not all Solution Editions will be available for the z114; there also may be some new ones.

IBM Global Finance (IGF) can lower costs, starting with a six month payment deferral. You can acquire a z114 now but not begin paying for it until the next year. The group also is offering all IBM middleware products, mainly WebSphere Application Server and Tivoli, interest free (0%) for twelve months. Finally, IGF can lower TCA through leasing. Leasing could further reduce the cost of the z114 by up to 3.5% over three years.

In the end the z114 doesn’t bring any major technology breakthroughs to the zEnterprise that weren’t previously seen in the z196, except maybe the PCIe I/O subsystem. What it brings is a new pricing structure for lower TCA and better price/performance. Yes, the capabilities have been ratcheted down, but the growth path to the full zEnterprise remains if you need it.


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